Bill S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was unveiled by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Thursday, consolidates 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 includes provisions for closer government control of imports, the unification of enforcement powers and the creation of new authorities for food safety regulation, and aligns Canada’s food safety laws more closely with those introduced in the US last year.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) said the bill was “an important step to enhance and modernise Canada’s already reputable food safety system”.
CFA president Ron Bonnett said: “We see this legislation as the framework for the development of a suite of performance-based regulatory tools that will enhance food safety and increase the competitiveness of our industry. Traceability is one such key area, where we look forward to further consultation as the regulations move forward.”
The Bill was also welcomed by the country’s meat processing industry. In a joint statement, the Canadian Meat Council (CMC) executive director Jim Laws, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors president and CEO Robin Horel and Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada general manager Robert DeValk said: “Food safety is the number one priority for Canada’s red meat, poultry and egg processors. We fully support actions to consolidate and modernise CFIA’s suite of food commodity legislation.”
DeValk said the proposed new laws would “improve food oversight by instituting a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities and introduces better controls on imported foods”.
Laws added: “We look forward to working closely with the government and elected officials at parliamentary hearings to ensure that the new act sets up an internationally competitive regulatory framework that enables and encourages the Canadian meat industry to achieve the highest levels of food safety.”
The Agriculture Union, which represents the country’s federal food inspectors, was more cautious in its response to the Bill. Bob Kingston, president of the Union, said: “Generally speaking, the bill is a good start, but we need to ensure that the proposed appeal mechanism does not give industry too much power to undermine the work of CFIA inspector.”
Kingston added that the government must also ensure that the CFIA has adequate inspection resources to enforce the new rules, or will risk the Bill becoming a “paper excercise”.
“To make sure that all food safety systems are working properly to ensure the lowest risk to Canadians from the food we eat, the CFIA needs to double the inspection force,” he said.