Along-delayed bid to level the playing field and better protect Canadians from unsafe imported foods is being revived. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has launched a consultation with industry players and the general public to develop a set of principles that will be the foundation of new regulations for some imported foods. The government has been promising new regulations since December 2007 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. Legislation was introduced in 2008 but never passed and hasn’t been reintroduced.
Since then, the government has received 57 proposals from the Weatherill inquiry into the deadly 2008 listeria outbreak, as well as recommendations from the Commons agriculture committee to improve food safety.
The CFIA announcement said new regulations would be made under the Canada Agricultural Products Act, but gave no indication of when that might happen or what sort of regulations will be considered, although they will cover both food safety requirements and a licensing regime for importers.
The products include food and food ingredients regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and account for 70 per cent of the food products available in the Canadian marketplace. Among them are alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery, fats and oils, infant formula, coffee and tea, cereals, spices and seasonings, juices and bakery products. They’re imported from more than 190 countries which have varying levels of food safety controls,
“An increase in the complexity of global marketing and mass distribution networks means that the scope and impact of failures in food safety systems can be widespread,” CFIA stated in a press release.
Among the best-known problems with imports in recent years have been E. coli in U. S. spinach, melamine in Chinese milk products, and salmonella in peanut butter and hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
The agency says it wants advice on what areas are of greatest risk and concern, how to respond more rapidly when there is a food safety problem, and how to prevent the marketing of unsafe food.
It would establish an Imported Food Sector system that would provide a more level playing field among imported and domestic products, a frequent request from food manufacturers and farm groups.
Under the proposed system, imports would have to comply with the same requirements and be held to the same standard as domestic products. For those who wish to participate in the consultation, there is a link on the main page of the CFIA’s website ( www.inspection.gc.ca). The consultation runs until Oct. 4.
“Anincreaseinthe complexityofglobal marketingand massdistribution networksmeans thatthescopeand impactoffailuresin foodsafetysystems canbewidespread.”