Two reports released at the end of 2013 have raised concerns over Canada’s food safety system and will require action by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA) in 2014.

In December 2013, the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service released the results of its mostrecent audit of Canada’s food safety system. Canada’s food safety system was found to be adequate, which is the lowest possible score to remain eligible to export food to the United States.  Several areas were identified as needing improvements, including sanitation and humane handling. As previously reported in greater detail, Canada’s Auditor General’s Fall Report, released in November 2013, was also critical of certain elements of the CFIA’s food recall procedures.

In 2014, the CFIA is also expected to continue working towards implementing the Safe Food for Canadians Act, SC 2012, c 24 (the “Act”). Passed in November 2012, the Act, which is intended to strengthen and modernize Canada’s food safety system by drawing together all food inspection legislation into one cohesive and consistent law, has an anticipated coming into force date of early 2015, as stated on the CFIA website, although no date has been fixed by the Governor in Council. The CFIA is currently consulting with stakeholders in order to develop regulations to support the new Act.

Health Canada will begin consultation in 2014 on proposed changes to the list of maximum residue limits(“MRLs”) for veterinary drugs in foods. Under the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations, veterinary drugs must be authorized by Health Canada.  Because drugs approved for use in a food-producing animal may result in residues of the drug remaining in tissues or products of treated animals, not all drugs are permitted for use in animals intended for consumption.

Health Canada sets the acceptable MRLs for veterinary drugs. These MRLs represent the maximum concentrations of residues recognized as safe by Health Canada, and are based on the type and amount of residue considered to pose no adverse health effects if consumed daily by a human over his or her lifetime. The proposed changes include revisions to existing MRLs, as well as new MRLs.

Because the MRLs apply both to foods produced domestically and foods imported into Canada, the World Trade Organization has also been notified so that consultation may also take place with non-domestic stakeholders.  However, Health Canada does not anticipate that the proposed amendments would affect Canada’s international trade activities because many of the proposed amendments are harmonized or comparable with those established by Canada’s major trading partners, including the United States.

1 Pom Wonderful’s advertising and marketing claims were remanded to the district court.

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