On June 7, 2012 the federal government introduced the proposed
Safe Food for Canadians Act (the Act). The proposed Act which must
be passed by Parliament and may be subject to change, would apply
to all persons and establishments that manufacture, prepare, store,
package or label foods and/or beverages, as would its associated
regulations.It remains unclear what these regulations would look
As part of a wider Government of Canada effort to modernize the
federal regulatory framework for food safety, the Act's primary
purpose is to make food as safe as possible for Canadians, in part
by targeting unsafe practices, increasing penalties and requiring
licensing and registration. If enacted, it would consolidate and
replace the Canadian Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection
Act, the Fish Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the
Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The federal government has
indicated that the Act would provide more consistency with respect
to rules and regulations and better align our system with those of
trading partners such as the United States.
Registration and Licences
One of the most significant developments under the Act would be
a mandatory licensing and registration regime for all persons who
deal with foods that move between provinces, either imported or
exported. A licence or registration would also be required to
engage in any activity (i.e., manufacturing, preparation, storage,
packaging, or labelling) with respect to such foods. At this time
we do not have specifics about the proposed licensing and
registration regime; however, even companies currently operating
under a licence or registration system for a specific food product
should expect to be subject to new requirements regarding the
movement of goods both within Canada and internationally.
The Minister would have the power to grant, suspend and revoke
non-transferable licences or registration for persons and
establishments. Such licences would prescribe the food
product and the activity(s) in which the licensee can engage with
regards to the food, as well as any conditions that the Minister
might choose to prescribe, either when the licence is granted or at
a later date. The process for a person to apply for and obtain a
licence or registration is unknown at this time.
Prohibitions and Offences
The sections of the proposed Act dealing with prohibitions and
offences contain further substantial changes from existing
legislation. The proposed Act includes a number of prohibitions
targeting unsafe practices such as deception and erroneous
impression and tampering. Under the proposed Act, penalties for
offences would increase significantly. For example, the maximum
fine for most minor offences would be $250,000 for a first offence,
and $500,000 for subsequent offences. More serious offences would
carry a maximum fine of $5 million and for certain serious offences
the fine could be set even higher at the discretion of the
Another large component of the proposed Act is the creation of a
more consistent food inspection regime. Inspection authorities
would be the same for all food products. This would support the
aims of the new food inspection model recently outlined in a
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) discussion paper which
focuses on a standardized approach across all industries, with
frequency and scope of inspection activities based on risk
The powers of inspectors would be the same, generally, as under
the current regime, but the proposed Act uses more modern language
in an effort to make the authorities clear to all parties. It
proposes that inspectors would benefit from explicit authority to
pass through or over private property to gain access to a place for
inspection purposes and from the ability to request a warrant by
Imports, Exports and Traceability
While other stated priorities of the federal government are
increased import controls, strengthened food traceability and
increased export opportunities through product certifications,, the
proposed Act establishes the ability to enact regulations
pertaining to these matters, but does not elaborate. The full
impact of the proposed Act on industry will be difficult to assess
in the absence of any indication of new or amended regulations.
Other food safety modernization initiatives announced to date
include the elimination of standard container sizes, the
establishment of a CFIA Complaints and Appeals Office, and a major
shift in the approach to food inspection.
For further details or to access the content of the Safe Food
for Canadians Act, click here
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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