A dramatic overhaul of Canada’s food safety system is nearing final approval by policy-makers. The Safe Foods for Canada Act has been passed by the country’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Foods and will now be passed back to the House of Commons for a third reading
The Act would consolidate Canada’s existing food safety statutes, including the Meat Inspection Act, the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. It would also align Canada’s food safety laws more closely with the US, give the government closer control over imports and exports, introduce a more consistent inspection regime across food commodities and ensure better food traceability.
Canadian Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said: “This important Act will provide new authorities to address food safety risks and will build additional safety into the system, from processor to importer to consumer.
“Consolidating authorities into one Act will make inspection and enforcement powers consistent across all food commodities, enabling inspectors to be more efficient, and allowing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to focus on higher-risk areas.”
Importantly for the meat industry, the new Act includes a legislated review mechanism that would give businesses the opportunity to challenge decisions by CFIA officials outside of the courts.
“The review mechanism will apply to all products falling under legislation administered by the CFIA. It will be faster and less costly than the judicial process, and regulated parties will still have the ability to seek redress via a judicial review by the Federal Court if they are dissatisfied with the final CFIA decision,” said the CFIA.
The Safe Foods for Canada Act has received a largely warm welcome from the meat processing industry, with the Canadian Meat Council and Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada speaking out in support when it was first unveiled in June.
However, The Agriculture Union, which represents the country’s federal food inspectors has called on the government to ensure the appeal mechanism does not give the industry too much power. The Union also questioned whether the government could implement the Act effectively with proposed cuts to the CFIA workforce.