Health Canada recently announced a new permitted use for tocopherols, a food preservative,  and will now permit lipase from Mucor javanicus to be used in cheese flavouring and butter flavouring preparations.

Tocopherols had previously been approved for use as a preservative in unstandardized foods but excluding meat and meat by-products, fish and poultry meat and poultry meat by-products. Tocopherols are now approved for use to preserve dried cooked poultry meat.

Similarly, Canada had already permitted lipase from various sources for use in Canada as a food enzyme in dairy-based flavouring preparations and other foods. Lipase obtained from Mucor javanicus will be used for modifying milk fat so as to enhance the flavour of cheese and butter-flavouring preparations.

Preservatives and enzymes are both regulated as food additives under Canada’s Marketing Authorization for Food Additives That May Be Used as Preservatives (SOR/2012-212) and Canada’s Marketing Authorization for Food Additives That May Be Used as Food Enzymes (SOR/2012-206), respectively.

The process used by Health Canada in these two cases (tocopherols and lipase obtained from Mucor javanicus) is typical where a food additive is already used in some capacity in Canada, and Health Canada, through a detailed safety assessment, concludes that there is already a significant body of data showing that its use presents no safety concerns. At that stage, it is relatively straightforward to expand the permitted uses of the food additive.

However, where a particular food additive is not already used in Canada, Health Canada may publish its intention to permit use of the food additive together with a more in-depth description of its detailed safety assessment in a consultation document. Health Canada’s Food Directorate will then consider safety information and comments received concerning the proposed additive for a set period of time following posting of the notice before determining whether or not to approve the additive for specific use(s).

By way of example, on March 28, 2014, Health Canada announced its intention to approve the use of calcium hypochlorite as a starch-modifying agent. (Calcium hypochlorite is not currently permitted for use as an additive in foods sold in Canada.)  Health Canada’s Food Directorate had completed a safety assessment of a food additive submission in which approval was sought for the use of calcium hypochlorite, as a starch-modifying agent and no safety concerns had been raised.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, and the United States, where the end products (the modified starches) are regulated as food additives, in Canada, it is the starch-modifying agents themselves that are regulated as food additives and must, accordingly, be approved for a particular use in end product(s). Health Canada will consider comments received by June 10, 2014 and thereafter may determine whether, and if so to what extent, calcium hypochlorite, may be approved for use in Canada.