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Do You Know About These New Food Safety Regulations?

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New regulations in the U.S. and Canada are poised to "amp up" enforcement of non-compliant food manufacturers via sweeping new changes to food safety laws.

These new regulations are in response to a series of food poisoning cases linked to tainted grocery products in the U.S. and Canada resulting in numerous fatalities. Here in Canada, enforcement of these laws will be through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) via the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and in the U.S., through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via two new laws: the Food Safety Enhancement Act and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

According to Carolyn Bateman, Inspection Manager of the CFIA, "many food processors, are not yet aware of the new food safety regulations that are about to take effect. Under the SFCA all food manufacturers and processors, even small facilities, will require a license from the CFIA if they import or export food across provincial boundaries. These licenses will be issued without reviewing the companies' food safety plan.

Self-policing has proven to be inadequate in the past as some food producers took an overly optimistic view of risk, dismissing (or unaware of) potential hazards to the extent that food safety was compromised. This is why the CFIA feels that external inspections by a regulatory agency are so important.

"CFIA enforcement will be based on harm, history, and intent", explained Bateman. All licensed food companies will be subject to regular inspections with their frequency based on risk. Companies with a poor compliance record will be visited more frequently by the CFIA. Fines will be levied and/or licenses revoked if non-compliances are not corrected.

Canadian consumers will have more access to information as non-compliance incidents will be subject to public disclosure. The CFIA website will post a list of companies that have lost their license as well as past and current food recalls due to pathogens or allergies." This will allow shoppers to make more informed choices concerning the safety of the food products they purchase at the grocery store.

In the U.S., under the Food Safety Enhancement Act, the FDA has been given much broader oversight authority which includes: setting up a mandatory inspection schedule which assigns each manufacturer a risk level that will determine inspection frequency. FDA inspectors are entitled by law to full access to company records and trace the actions of companies. Science-based safety standards and hazard analyses will have to be completed by the companies prior to inspection and will be checked by FDA inspectors. Under the FSMA, the FDA can access records if they suspect contamination that is a danger to human health and have increased enforcement powers such as: seizure, administrative detention, authority to stop the movement of food, and the power to invoke mandatory recalls if a company refuses to do so voluntarily.

These new laws and their associated regulations require a lot more manpower to implement and enforce. Therefore, full implementation will take time but, one thing is clear, food manufacturers, who were once allowed to police themselves, are now going to be kept on a very short leash by regulatory authorities.


Alberta Beef Recall 2012 Timeline
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