On May 4, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a “systems recognition arrangement” with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada recognizing the comparability of the U.S. and Canadian food safety systems. This is only the second time that the FDA has recognized a foreign food safety system as comparable, with the only other recognized system being New Zealand signed in 2012. However, similar systems recognition arrangements are underway between the FDA and Australia and the European Commission.
Systems recognition is based on the conclusion that food safety systems with similar elements and levels of oversight lead to similar food safety outcomes. The process involves reviewing a foreign country’s domestic food safety regulatory system to determine if it has the legal authorities and regulatory tools in place to provide public health outcomes comparable to those provided by the FDA. A systems recognition assessment focuses not only the ability for foreign food safety systems to ensure food safety, but also on the ability for foreign regulators to prevent and respond to outbreaks, and contamination incidences.
In order to execute the systems recognition arrangement between the FDA, the CFIA and Health Canada, the FDA undertook a systems recognition review of Canada’s food safety system using their International Comparability Assessment Tool, which included a review of the key components of Canada’s food safety system, including domestic legislation, regulations, inspection programs, outbreak response, compliance and enforcement, and laboratory support.
Benefits of the Systems Recognition Arrangement
Systems recognition advances cooperation and confidence between the Canadian and U.S. regulatory systems and enhances transparency, discussion and information sharing between the countries. It also allows for the coordination and cooperation in a variety of food safety-related matters, such as scientific collaboration, and outbreak response.
With systems recognition in place, it increases the FDA’s reliance on Canadian regulators, allowing the FDA to make more risk-based approach to the oversight of imported food from Canada, including planning the scope and frequency of inspection activities, foreign facility inspections, import field exams, and import sampling.
Link to the Announcement: