The Reference Database Hazard Identification

On February 7, 2014, the Canadian Minister of Health announced the launch of the Reference Database for Hazard Identification (“RDHI”). The RDHI is a tool created to assist the food industry in developing food safety control plans, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (“HACCP”) plans, and to comply with relevant legislation such as the Food and Drugs Act, the Food and Drug Regulations and, once in force, the Safe Food for Canadians Act.

Information available on the RDHI

The database facilitates the identification of food and food-borne hazards. Producers are able to access relevant food hazard information and are able to search food-borne dangers along different phases of the production chain: “Product Ingredients and Incoming Materials”, “Processing Steps” and “Plant Layout (Cross Contamination Zone)”.

The “Product Ingredients and Incoming Materials” section identifies hazards at the input stage of the manufacturing process. The “Processing Steps” section identifies potential hazards specific to the production stage and the “Plant Layout (Cross-Contamination)” section helps detect hazards associated with the layout and design of the building in which food is processed.  Food producers are also able to access information about hazards, including the source of the hazard, its characteristics, where it may present itself, and methods of prevention.

Utilization of the RDHI by industry

Under Canadian law, producers are required to implement a variety of food safety control mechanisms.  HACCP are plans that minimize the risk of contamination by identifying areas in the production process that are susceptible to hazards. The plans are guided by seven principles, each a step to limit food’s exposure to hazards.   The first principle is hazard analysis, which involves laying out a plan to identify all possible food safety hazards that could cause a product to be unsafe for consumption, and the measures that can be taken to control those hazards.

The second principle involves identifying critical control points, which are the points in the production process where an action can be taken to prevent, eliminate or reduce a food safety hazard to an acceptable level.  The remaining principles are comprised of establishing critical limits, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification procedures and record keeping.

Federally-registered meat and poultry producers are required to implement HACCP plans, pursuant to the Meat Inspection Regulations, and are monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA”). Federally-registered fish producers are required to implement quality control plans under the Quality Management Program (“QMP”), which adopts HACCP principles.

Although HACCP is not mandatory for federally-registered egg, dairy, honey, maple or processed food producers, it is a system that is strongly recommended by the CFIA and is regularly used in the food industry as a quality control mechanism even where the use of HACCP may not be formally required by law.

The RDHI will be useful to producers looking to evaluate the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of their existing food safety controls, or looking to develop new food safety controls.