New food safety rules to spur innovation: CFIA
Jan. 6th, 2012
by Barry Wilson
The Western Producer
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is launching the most extensive regulatory review in its 14-year history, promising more modern, industry-friendly rules.
It proposes switching the emphasis from setting objectives and policing compliance to emphasizing prevention and allowing industry to reach the objectives without excessive regulatory direction.
The CFIA would focus on verifying compliance.
As well, it will consider whether user fees should be increased to reflect current costs of services and private benefits that flow from some regulations.
At the same time, agriculture minister Gerry Ritz is promising new food safety legislation.
In a December report on food safety system improvements, he noted plans for “a new food safety bill to simplify and modernize our legislation.”
Regulatory reform will be part of that drive in 2012.
In a discussion paper published in late December in anticipation of discussions during the winter, the CFIA said its goals are to create new regulations that are more flexible, protect public safety and give industry enough flexibility to innovate.
“Modernized regulatory frameworks will improve consistency and reduce complexity in regulation and will enhance the ability of the CFIA and regulated parties to contribute to the safety of the food supply and the protection of the animal and plant resource bases,” said the discussion paper.
Meanwhile, companies would be told what the safety goal is but not be instructed on how they must get there.
“Shifting to outcomes-based and transparent regulations aims to establish clear expectations regarding risk management outcomes to be achieved,” said the paper.
“Such regulations will provide flexibility for the regulated industry to demonstrate how it is achieving the desired outcome.”
Many in the agri-food industry would likely welcome proposals to simplify often conflicting or arcane rules that flow from 13 pieces of legislation and 38 sets of regulations connected to them.
However, there almost certainly will be resistance from food safety advocates and possibly unions representing CFIA employees who will argue this is a formula for putting the future of the food system even more in the hands of companies.
The CFIA said regulatory reform is necessary because current regulations reflect past conditions. As well, food products and globalized trade have changed and many current regulations stifle necessary innovation.
Other jurisdictions, including the United States, are already in the midst of food regulatory review.
Brian Evans, Canada’s chief food safety officer and chief veterinarian, said change is necessary and the review is part of a government-wide demand for smarter regulations.
The underlying theme of the system will remain, “thou shalt not sell unsafe food,” he said.
Farmers will also see a benefit.
“I think at the end of the day it will be welcomed by producers because it will be much more predictable, more outcome-based on common principles and will allow industry to demonstrate how they achieve compliance without us prescriptively saying, ‘this is how we’re going to measure compliance,’ ” he said. “I believe it will make producer lives more predictable as well and of course it will affect rules on inputs as well.”