Enforcement of Food Safety is on the Way in the US and Canada

Canada and the US are rolling out new regulations for enforcement of food safety legislation which can result in: loss of license, fines, and ultimately loss of market share for non-conforming businesses. Food manufacturers were once responsible for policing themselves via HAACP plans and ISO regulations. Unfortunately, some manufacturers failed in this responsibility resulting in numerous serious food poisoning outbreaks over the last decade, some of which resulted in fatalities.

In response to these outbreaks new legislation has passed in both countries. Canadian manufacturers will now be subject to the Safe food for Canadians Act, and US manufacturers will be subject to the Food Safety Enhancement Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These new laws will take time to be fully implemented as they require additional funding and manpower, but the following changes will occur and your company needs to be ready!

In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for enforcing new policies introduced by the Safe Food for Canadians Act. According to Carolyn Bateman, Inspection Manager of the CFIA, “many smaller companies that were once not required to be licensed will now need a license if they import, export, or prepare food for inter provincial trade. Companies who acquire ingredients and sell products only within their provincial boundaries will not require a license.” However Candice Appleby Executive Director SSFPA noted that, “The new food premises regulations for food processors selling food within the province will require a food safety and sanitation plan in place prior to selling food within BC.”

Bateman explained that, “the CFIA will have the power to issue on site monetary penalties for noncompliance violations – a bit like speeding tickets – and if the company is ticketed again the fines will increase. The CFIA does not have enough auditors to be forgiving to companies who do not comply with the new food regulations. Enforcement is based on harm, history, and intent. However, there will be an appeals process available if a manufacturer feels that they were cited unfairly. Transparency to the Canadian public is a further change and recalled products as well as the names of manufacturers whose licenses are suspended or lost will be listed on the CFIA website.“

According to Bateman, other CFIA changes will include: “the definition of local products will change to province wide + 50km. The Safe Food for Canadians Act will replace the current regulations for meat, agricultural and fish inspections. Moreover, the CFIA is rolling out a new online labeling tool as labeling requirements have been confusing in the past.”

In the US, under the Food Safety Enhancement Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been given much greater oversight authority. A major change will be a mandatory inspection schedule which assigns each manufacturer a risk level of 1, 2 or 3. Risk level 1 manufacturers will be inspected more often; about every 6 months. All companies will be required to keep records of each product for two years. FDA inspectors will be entitled by law to full access to these records allowing them to better trace the actions of each company. Science-based safety standards for fruits and vegetables will now need to be followed by each food producer from seed to shipping in order for food manufacturers to use their crops for production.

Manufacturers must use an FDA accredited laboratory for testing food products. All manufacturers will have to document the following: hazards, food contamination prevention measures, and corrective actions taken. Under the FSMA, the FDA can access and copy a food companys’ records if they suspect a contamination that is a danger to humans. Moreover, this act gives them increased enforcement powers such as: seizure, administrative detention, authority to stop the movement of food, and it allows the FDA to invoke mandatory recalls if necessary.

The ramifications of all of these new laws on the food production industry as a whole is not yet fully understood. “Gerry Gerbasi, a well known and respected food safety consultant and HACCP trainer observed that, “The modernization of this industry cannot be stopped. Companies need to get ready NOW! It is up to each manufacturer to train their own people in regard to these new laws, and this needs to be started ASAP as retraining and integration of these new laws could take up to a year per manufacturer.”

Technology can reduce the cost of food safety. Food safety processes can be automated in the same way that production processes can be automated and food safety technology can mitigate food safety risk. Cloud-based technologies such as the Icicle Food Safety System can reduce costs when ramping up effort to comply with new food safety regulations.

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