With regulatory modernization and food waste reduction being two key priorities of the Government of Canada, Health Canada and CFIA have announced initiatives to address each. Following is TAG Canada’s take on these.
Regulatory Modernization. As a part of the Government’s initiative to conduct targeted reviews of regulatory requirements and practices “that are bottlenecks to economic growth and innovation,” Health Canada received funding to move forward on a number of food-focused regulatory modernization priorities for Food and Drugs Regulation. Led by Health Canada, these cover a range of topics which, collectively, formed Health Canada’s food regulatory modernization agenda for 2018-2023. With these almost complete, Health Canada is now focusing on potential future regulatory modernization priorities. As the agency stated in a stakeholder publication, “Even with the significant progress made over the past four years, much work remains to be done. Dated and inflexible regulatory frameworks remain and require modernization to better respond and adapt to new science, industry innovation, and/or emerging risks to health.”
As such, Health Canada is now focusing on three key areas: finalizing the Part B modernization project (pre-publication in Canada Gazette Part I in Fall 2023); publishing new regulations restricting the advertising of certain foods to children under the age of 13 (pre-publication in Canada Gazette Part I anticipated for Spring 2024); and moving forward with the establishment of a mandatory pre-market review program for food packaging materials as part of ECCC’s broader Zero Plastic Waste Agenda.
Along with these, potential modernization areas that are being discussed include:
- the regulatory frameworks for foods for special dietary use, infant foods, health claims on foods, and food irradiation
- dairy-related regulations related to pasteurization
- regulations for food fortification, including the minor use of flour, Vitamin D in yogurt, and expired interim marketing authorizations
- Amend regulations pertaining to smoked fish, allergen labelling for high protein ingredients, and to accommodate plant-based foods and products of cellular agriculture
- Target amendments to the regulatory framework for novel foods in light of the new guidance (published May 16, 2022)
- Propose new regulations for mandatory caffeine labelling on food, menu labelling, to address online labelling for the Nutrition facts Table (NfT) and ingredients, and to enable clinical trials involving foods for special dietary purposes (FSDP)
- Repeal the prohibition in Part E of the Food and Drug Regulations related to cyclamate sweeteners
Food Waste Reduction. With the Government of Canada taking the growing issue of food waste seriously, it has identified the lack of consumer education on and clarity in “best before” date labeling as a contributor to the complex issue. So CFIA is leading an initiative to address food waste reduction under Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).
In 2019, CFIA proposed changes to the SFCR related to identifying best before dates on foods to align them more closely with the relevant Codex Alimentarius guidance. With that work having been put on hold due to the pandemic, the discussion has again arisen in the context of both addressing food waste and better clarifying the meaning of the labeling.
Canada’s approach to labelling has been to help consumers make informed choices, with best before dates being an indicator of a food’s quality, not safety, and regulations requiring the dates on packaged foods with a durable life of 90 days or less.
The new approach to labeling is now being considered to determine the purposes, functions, and value of date labeling; assess the evidence of resulting food waste; and evaluate potential regulatory changes and their business impacts. CFIA also has been conducting a public consultation on the topic, on which TAG Canada will keep our readers informed as it develops.