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
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
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
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