Itching for news on the Safe Food for Canadians Act? You’re in luck: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) just released its “What We Heard Report” (the Report), which summarizes the feedback the CFIA received in response to its public consultation on the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (Regulations). The Regulations were pre-published in the Canada Gazette in January 2017 and public consultation closed in April 2017. The CFIA reports it received over 1,700 submissions from Canadian consumers, national and international businesses, governments and industry associations on the proposed new Regulations.
The Report is divided into five sections, corresponding to common themes that emerged from the stakeholder submissions. Here’s what the CFIA reported about what it heard:
Technical – Stakeholders made suggestions for improved clarity of regulatory text, including clarified definitions and alignment of requirements to facilitate the consolidation of several food-related regulations into one. There was also mixed reaction to exempting transporters and storage facilities from licensing, as they were seen by many stakeholders as being integral and core elements of the supply chain.
Small Business – Small business owners expressed concern about the anticipated administrative, financial and compliance burden of the proposed Regulations and welcomed measures intended to alleviate the administrative burden. There were mixed reactions to the proposed exemption for micro and small businesses, with larger firms and national associations calling for certain mandatory requirements at every link in the supply chain.
Organic Products – Stakeholders expressed concern about the proposed inclusion of slaughter, storage and conveyance facilities in the scope of organic activities that trigger mandatory certification.
Implementation – Several stakeholders asked the CFIA how the Regulations would be implemented and requested additional guidance in advance of implementing the new regime. Additional comments highlighted the need for: additional training for inspectors to ensure consistency in applying the new regulatory requirements; assistance from the CFIA to industry; more information about frequency and type of regulatory oversight and how private/third-party certifications will fit within the proposed regime; and recognition of the packaging changes that will be required because of the transition from registration to licence numbers.
Trade and Competitiveness – Stakeholders generally supported the harmonization of requirements for Canadian food businesses and importers but had mixed reactions to the proposal that importers with no “boots on the ground” in Canada be permitted to apply for an import licence.
According to the Report, the CFIA is now preparing for the final publication of the Regulations, which is planned for spring 2018. At that time, the CFIA will also let us know the timing for the coming into force of the Act and Regulations.
This legal update was written by Claudette van Zyl.