by SUSAN MANN
Food manufacturers are welcoming a new legislation that federal officials say will enable Canada’s government to better protect Canadians from unsafe foods.
Adam Grachnik, communications director for Food & Consumer Products of Canada, says the Safe Food for Canadians Act is a “much needed change and we applaud the federal government for it.” The association represents the food and consumer products industry.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and other federal officials released details about the Act at a press conference in an Ottawa grocery store today. The Act was also tabled in the Senate today.
Grachnik says the Act “will further enhance Canada’s reputation as a global food and beverage products safety leader.”
The federal government’s press release says the new Act will consolidate the Fish Inspection Act, the Canadian Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
It will align inspection and enforcement powers across all food commodities, improve the safety of food, reduce overlap and help industry to better understand and comply with food safety laws.
Rick Holley, a professor in the University of Manitoba’s food science department, says the proposed food safety legislative changes are generally positive. “Hopefully what it will mean is the inspection staff in the various commodity areas will better recognize what the expectation is of them when they’re out in the field,” he says.
With current legislation embodied in several acts, the inspectors were given different latitude to enforce the regulations. “Now this is going to be more uniform,” he says.
The release says there will also be tougher fines for activities that put Canadians’ health and safety at risk. The previous fines handed out for a serious offence were a maximum of $250,000. But under the new Act, the penalties could be $5 million or higher at the court’s discretion. There are also new penalties for recklessly endangering the lives of Canadians through tampering, deceptive practices or hoaxes.
The Act will also provide a new mechanism for regulated parties to get certain decisions by Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials reviewed.
There will be a new authority in the Act that would allow certification of any food commodity for export. The Act will also strengthen controls over imported foods, introduce powers to register or license regulated parties, and prohibit the importation of unsafe foods.
The agriculture and food departments will both have a role to play in the food safety system. The agriculture minister, through responsibility for the CFIA, would administer and enforce the Act and its regulations. The health minister retains the responsibility of developing policies and standards for food safety and nutritional quality. BF