The Canadian government has announced new regulations aimed at improving food safety in the country. The new rules – known as the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations – will be available for public comment for the next 90 days.
Foodborne illness affects four million people each year, resulting in 11,600 hospitalizations and 238 deaths. The new regulations would seek to prevent issues with food safety for imports, exports and food products sold across the country.
The rules would mirror those introduced by the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), by requiring food manufacturers and distributers to identify risks and implement preventive controls. The regulations would also expedite the recall process, thereby removing hazardous foods from the market more quickly.
“Currently, foods prepared in Canada or imported into Canada are not all subject to the same regulatory requirements, and some food safety requirements do not reflect advances in technology, science and food safety best practices,” said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The financial benefits of the regulations could total $137.3 million on an annual basis.
“As consumers demand more convenient, ready-to-eat products (e.g. bagged salads), the risk of exposure to hazards also increases since these products are intended to be consumed without further cooking,” said the agency. “Consumers also increasingly expect foods to be available year-round, which increases demand for imported foods (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) that are often sourced from countries with underdeveloped food safety systems (e.g. from some countries in South America).”
Since 2011, 84 recalls related to fresh produce have been issued. Of note was a 2008 outbreak of listeriosis which sickened 57 people and led to the death of 23 others, and was eventually traced back to ready-to-eat meat products.
“The increased international regulatory alignment has the potential to increase trade opportunities for the food industry as it would maintain existing market access opportunities for Canadian businesses and support their expansion,” said the agency. “Without the proposed [preventive control plan] and food safety requirements, Canada would be out of step with its major trading partners that are moving to a preventive control regulatory approach to food safety, and this would put market access at risk.”