In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we cover food safety regulations in Canada.
Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
What is it?
Last month, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced the start of a consultation period on its proposed “Safe Food for Canadians Regulations“. The proposed regulations would establish consistent, prevention-focused requirements for food that is imported or prepared for export or inter-provincial trade, and would also include some requirements applicable to food that is traded intra-provincially.
The key objectives of the proposed regulations are to:
- Apply internationally-recognized standards for food safety to food that is imported into or prepared in Canada for inter-provincial trade or for export.
- Support market access for Canadian exporters by keeping pace with food safety modernization efforts in other countries, such as the U.S., that are moving to systems-based approaches.
- Consolidate 13 food commodity-based regulations plus the food-related provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (CPLR) into a single set of more outcome-based requirements (i.e. requiring an expected result instead of listing steps to achieve the expected result) under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA).
In addition, the CFIA says that there is “good alignment” between the approaches in its proposed regulations and in the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules.
Who is affected?
The following type of food industry businesses would be affected by the proposed regulations:
- Preparers of food for inter-provincial trade
- Preparers of food for export
- Food importers
- Food exporters
- Inter-provincial traders of food
- Fresh fruit and vegetable primary producers
- Organic food industry, including certification bodies and conformity verification bodies
What are the requirements?
The proposed regulations would establish three key food safety elements:
- Licences: Licences would be required for food importers, food businesses preparing food for export or for inter-provincial trade, with some exceptions (see section “Exceptions and Exemptions” in the regulations), and for businesses slaughtering food animals from which meat products for export or inter-provincial trade may be derived. Licence applications would require information on identity (e.g. business name) and business activities, which would inform risk-based oversight. The proposed licence would be valid for a period of two years and could be suspended or cancelled in cases of non-compliance.
- Traceability: The proposed regulations would apply the international standard for traceability established by Codex to persons importing, exporting and inter-provincially trading food, as well as to other persons holding a licence issued under the SFCA, and to growers and harvesters of fresh fruits or vegetables that are to be exported or traded inter-provincially. Electronic or paper records would be required to be prepared and kept in order to track food forward to the immediate customer (e.g. a retailer or another food business) and backwards to the immediate supplier. Retailers would not be required to trace forward their sales to consumers. Traceability information would have to be provided, upon the Minister’s request, within 24 hours, or some shorter period, if the information is considered necessary to identify or respond to a risk of injury to human health, or some longer period if the information is not considered necessary for a recall that is or may be ordered. The information would need to be provided in French or in English and, where electronic, in a format that could be imported and manipulated by standard commercial software. The information would need to be accessible in Canada.
- Preventive Controls and Preventive Control Plan (PCP): The proposed regulations would require food subject to the regulations and activities (e.g. importing, preparing meat products for export or inter-provincial trade) to meet food safety requirements, and that those activities be conducted in a manner that is consistent with internationally-recognized agricultural and manufacturing practices (i.e. GAPs, GMPs and HACCP). The proposed regulations would address the following key preventive control elements:
- Sanitation, pest control, and non-food agents
- Conveyances and equipment
- Conditions respecting establishments
- Unloading, loading and storing
- Competency (i.e. for staff)
- Communicable diseases and lesions
- Investigation and notification, complaints and recall
The steps related to the preparation of a PCP would be based on HACCP principles.
What is next?
The draft regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on January 21, 2017. A consultation period will remain open for public comments until April 21, 2017. The CFIA is proposing a phased approach for the coming into force of the proposed regulations. Here’s an overview of the phased implementation:
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