The Safe Food for Canadians Act was drafted in 2012 and on Wednesday, after years of industry consultation and review, the regulations were finalized. The federal government has consolidated 14 different food regulations into one under published earlier this week in Canada Gazette, Part II.
The new rules include licensing and traceability requirements for companies importing or exporting food or food products across any border, federal or provincial. This final regulation evolved from significant consultation following draft regulations introduced in early 2017.
The new rules are designed to align Canada’s rules with its major trading partners, as well as streamline the food safety recall process in the country.
Why the new regulations
Government representatives cited several reasons behind the new regulations. Canadian eating habits are evolving to include more ready-to-eat and prepared foods, such as bagged salad, and the expectation of year-round produce, often imported from countries with less stringent food safety standards, have created safety concerns that need addressed.
The new rules will also be consistent with international food safety standards, the government says, to help Canadian food businesses continue to have access to trading partners like the United States, which has already adopted similar regulations. Once this regulation is in force, Canadian food businesses exporting foods that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can leverage their licence to demonstrate that their food safety controls and meet their U.S. importers’ requirements under the U.S. Foreign Supplier Verification Program, the government says.
There are several changes in the regulations, but one of the major ones is in relation to traceability to eliminate any missing links in the food ingredient chain. Those importing or exporting any food or food ingredients will be required to keep detailed and available records one step back and one step forward as a chain of custody — meaning a record of where each product comes from and where each product goes. This added requirement should help with the speed and efficiency of food recalls.
Businesses that import food or prepare food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders will now need to have licences as well as preventive controls that address potential risks to food safety, the government says.
The new rules will be phased in over the next two and a half years. Meat, egg, and dairy industries will be required to comply first, beginning January, 2019; fruit and vegetable industries next; followed by packaged food companies by the end of the phase-in period.
“Canada is recognized as having one of the strongest food safety systems in the world. I am proud to say that these regulations, which focus on prevention and faster removal of unsafe food from the marketplace, go even further to protect Canadian consumers.”
– Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health
“The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations will further enhance Canada’s international reputation as a global food safety leader, and help maintain and further expand market access for Canada’s food businesses. Maintaining and enhancing the quality of our exports is vital to achieving the Government of Canada’s trade target of growing agriculture and food exports to $75 billion by 2025.”
– Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
“These regulations are the biggest change to the food industry in the past 25 years and they will have a positive and lasting impact. Our members strongly support the objectives of the new regulations and it is our common goal to ensure Canadian consumers have access to safe, high-quality food at affordable prices.”
– Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada