The influential Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition hailed the new Safe Food For Canadians Act regulations that began to take effect across Canada Tuesday, promising to continue work to make them “world class.”

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) replaced 14 sets of regulations as of Jan. 15 this year. The new single regulatory framework allows the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce Canada’s new Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). The new regulatory system shifts Canada’s food safety enforcement to prevention with a rigorous risk management and traceability focus.

The SFCA shares the goal of preventing food borne illness with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which became U.S. law in 2011. Both the U.S and Canada have worked for years on the regulatory details of their new food safety laws.

Officials with the CFIA have said the new regulations “will provide clear and consistent rules for food commodities so consumers can be confident that food on grocery shelves is safer to eat, whether it is produced in Canada or abroad.”

CanadaIn authorities believe the SFCA builds on “one of the strongest food safety systems in the world,” and will enable CFIA to handle the speed, volume and complexity of modern food production with “significant new risks and challenges” that must be met by regulators.

The Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition issued a statement yesterday saying enforcement of the single regulatory framework was “a positive step,” but called upon the government to keep working on the changes. The 19-year old industry coalition supports the update and favors strengthening Canada’s food regulations.

“We actively contributed to the drafting of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and strongly supported its incorporation of an outcomes-based approach and its passage with the support of all parties in Parliament in November 2012,” said Albert Chambers, the Coalition’s executive director.

Chambers says the coalition has worked with CFIA for the past six years in both meetings and consultations on the drafting of the new regulations. Its goal was to see that the regulations were meeting both industry and government standards for rigor and practicality.

The executive director says the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations Act incorporates many but not all those improvements.

“However, we have a written commitment from the Minister of Health, the Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor M.P. P.C., that there will be further consultations on our recommendations for broadening the scope of the regulations to include the full supply chain and making other changes to ensure that Canada’s food safety requirements remain world class.

“The coalition appreciates the work that officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and elsewhere in the government have put into this major initiative — it has not been easy to combine 14 separate regulations into a new approach” Chambers said. “Our members also know that there is more to be done to smoothly implement the changes within industry and by CFIA. This is uncharted territory for both food businesses and CFIA’s inspection staff. We are hopeful that the collaborative approach that led to this point will continue during the implementation phase.”

Coalition  membership is composed of 24 national or regional associations representing food businesses at every link in the food supply chain from input suppliers through primary production, transportation, processing, manufacturing, distribution and importing to final marketers at export, retail and food service and three allied members that provide services to the industry.

The phase in of the new regulations that began Tuesday has three important dates:

Jan. 15, 2019: Phase 1

  • The import of meat, fish, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, maple and honey for commercial sale will require an SFC license; however, most current license/registrations will continue to be accepted until they expire. At expiration, importers of these foods will require an SFCA license. Among the licenses that will be allowed to expire before an SFCA license will be required are those for importers of fish and cheese, dairy and meat establishments, and produce warehouses

Jan. 15, 2020: Phase 2

  • An SFCA license will be required for imports of meat, fish, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, maple and honey for commercial sale, unless otherwise exempted.

July 15, 2020: Phase 3

  • An SFCA license will be required for all commercial food and beverage imports, unless otherwise exempted.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)