Safe Food for Everyone

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Similar activities north and south of the 49th parallel.

Whether we live in Canada or the United States, consumers have similar expectations when it comes to the food we eat. We expect it to be safe, nutritious and of good quality. We also expect that our respective governments are looking out for our health and safety and have somehow evaluated the wholesomeness of the food we consume.

But the reality of the situation is that our governments have limited resources to inspect food manufacturers and importers and to test food products. The responsibility falls to the food industry to ensure the safety of the food we eat, and that makes sense. What company would willingly put products on the market that would cause illness and/or injury to the consumer? However, as more and more of our food comes from beyond our respective borders, the need for stronger controls over the safety and traceability of our food supplies becomes increasingly more important.

The last few years have seen significant changes in the laws governing the manufacture, import and sale of foods in Canada and the United States and the changes will continue.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
The Safe Food for Canadians Act was passed in November 2012 and will come into force at the beginning of 2015. In the interim, regulations will be created to support the intent of the Act. The Act was created to modernize and strengthen federal food safety legislation and regulations in Canada. The Safe Food for Canadians Act consolidates the authorities of the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and applies to all foods sold inter provincially and internationally. The Food & Drugs Act remains overarching the authority for all foods sold in Canada.

The Act focuses on three important areas:

  • Improved food safety oversight to better protect consumers. This means increased fines and penalties for industry non-compliance; mandatory requirements for food traceability; licensing of importers and prohibitions against importing unsafe foods
     
  • Streamlined and strengthened legislative authorities leading to consistent government inspection and enforcement activities across food commodities; clarification of government expectations to facilitate ease of compliance by industry
     
  • Enhanced international market opportunities for Canadian industry by giving government the ability to certify foods for export; aligning requirements more closely with those of our trading partners including the United States

The Safe Food for Canadians Act mirrors food safety activities in the United States.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) became law in January 2011. The intent of the law is to ensure safe food for Americans by shifting the focus from responding to food safety issues to preventing their occurrence. Similar to Canada, the United States is developing rules to support the intent and enable the implementation of the FSMA. Two recently proposed rules focus on controls over imported foods; Foreign Supplier Verification Programs Proposed Rule, and the Accredited Third Party Certification Proposed Rule.

The proposed Foreign Supplier Verification Program rule is similar in nature to the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations in Canada. One key difference though is that the American program applies to food for animals as well as humans.

The Imported Food Sector Product Regulations will require all importers to

  • Hold a valid Imported Food Sector license, which will require renewing every two years. Obtaining a license will based upon the importer’s ability to have, implement and maintain a written Preventive Food Safety Control Plan (PFSCP) and to demonstrate that they are taking the necessary measures to reduce food safety risks
     
  • Notify the government within 24 hours of determining that a food safety hazard exists
     
  • Develop, establish and maintain a written recall plan to help identify and remove products of concern from the Canadian marketplace quickly and efficiently
     
  • Maintain records associated with all imported products, the recall plan and the Preventive Food Safety Control Plan (PFSCP)

The  Foreign Supplier Verification Program will require importers to

  • Share responsibility and be accountable for preventing food safety problems
     
  • Develop, maintain, and follow a Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) for each food they import. The FSVP will identify hazards associated with each imported product, identify means to control hazards, provide for corrective actions and verification activities and ensure adequate record keeping
     
  • Obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number for their company and to provide that number electronically when filing for entry with Customs and Border Protection.

 

Although Canadian and American programs seem similar in intent (i.e., ensuring the safety of foods sold), the implementation and enforcement of the law is not necessarily identical. Be sure to consult with experienced professionals to ensure that you are in compliance with current rules and regulations.

 

Anne Wilkie is the Senior Government Relations & Regulatory Strategy Specialist
 at Source Nutraceutical, Inc. regulatory@sourcenutra.ca

 

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 8/11/13

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