Health Canada can boast of several regulatory achievements during the past 18 months, including the implementation of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) regulations, new controls for salmonella in frozen raw breaded chicken products, and the long-awaited revision of the Canadian Food Guide. In recent months, Health Canada has introduced limits for heavy metals, launched food fraud activities, and rolled out new rules for cannabis edibles. Moving forward, Canadian authorities will implement the next phase of the SFCA regulations in January 2020, and continue efforts to improve public health through proper nutrition.
New Focus on Heavy Metals
Heavy metals are a pervasive threat to certain types of foods. Addressing this risk, Health Canada intends to consolidate the existing maximum levels (MLs) for lead in infant formula products on “as consumed basis,” and to establish a limit for inorganic arsenic in certain types of rice and related food products.
Under the current Canadian regulations, the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods specifies MLs of 0.15 parts per million (ppm) for lead in concentrated infant formula and 0.08 ppm for lead in infant formula when ready-to-serve. In a new proposal, Health Canada would lower the ML to 0.01 ppm for lead in infant formula on an ‘as consumed’ basis. The Canadian regulations will be revised to list the new MLs for lead in all formats of infant formula (powdered, concentrated and ready-to-serve) and all types of formula (soy and dairy).
Based on the results of recent scientific assessment, Health Canada recently proposed maximum levels (MLs) for inorganic arsenic in polished (white) and husked (brown) rice as well as foods containing these types of rice. The proposed MLs are 0.2 ppm and 0.35 ppm for white and brown rice, respectively. Health Canada is currently compiling additional data related to the presence of arsenic in rice-based foods, particularly arsenic foods intended for infants and young children.
CFIA Tackling Food Fraud
Food fraud is a global economic problem and potential food safety risk impacting many sectors, particularly honey, spices, olive oil, fish, and organic food products. To combat this problem, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was granted $24.4 million this year to expand its current food fraud program by increasing the monitoring of surveillance data, developing new detection methods, and expanding inspections and food sampling.
CFIA has revealed that targeted surveillance and enforcement actions prevented more than 12,000 kg of adulterated honey from entering the Canadian market in 2018. Canadian testing of honey in 2018 determined that 78 percent of 240 samples of honey sampled in Canada were accurately labeled as authentic.
New Rules for Cannabis Edibles
Health Canada recently issued an amendment to the Cannabis Regulations regarding the sale of cannabis edible products, including foods and beverages. In October 2018, the publication of the Cannabis Act established a regulatory framework for the production, distribution, sale, and possession of recreational cannabis throughout Canada. The new regulations represent the next stage of cannabis legalization in Canada.
As published in the Canada Gazette, the regulations impose a limit of 10 milligrams (mg) of THC per package for edible cannabidiol (CBD) products (food or beverage). Also, the regulations establish a limit of 10 mg of THC per unit or 1000 mg of THC per package for products that contain CBD extract and are meant to be ingested (e.g. supplements or capsules).
The SFCA regulations took effect on January 15, 2019, but some requirements will be phased-in during a 12- to 30-month period depending on the food commodity, type of activity and business size. The regulations initially applied to certain industry sectors, including meat, fish, dairy, maple products, honey, eggs and processed eggs, processed fruit, and processed vegetables.
The core elements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) are similar to those of its American relative, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which includes: preventive controls, licensing and traceability. The regulatory requirements apply to all foods imported into Canada, sold across provinces or prepared for export.
In 2020, additional business types and commodities will be required to comply with the regulations. On January 15, 2020, the fresh fruit and vegetable sector (growing and harvesting) must comply with the requirements for preventive controls, written Preventive Control Plans (PCP), and traceability. Businesses with expiring registrations and import licenses must apply for a SFC license. Also, businesses recognized as ‘All Other Foods” with at least $100,000 in annual sales and more than four employees must comply with the core SFCR requirements by July 15, 2020.
The SFCA consolidated several regulations and food regulatory jurisdictions. As such, many businesses not previously registered with CFIA are now under its authority. Effective July 16, 2020, the regulations will cover additional industry sectors including beverages (non-alcoholic), coffee and tea, confectionery, dried herbs and spices, processed grain-based foods (e.g. pasta, cereals, and baked goods), oils, and snack foods.
In terms of food labeling, Canada will mandate new Nutrition Facts Panels, ingredient listings, and serving sizes by 2021. Also, front-of-package labeling was proposed by Health Canada in 2018, and a final rule was expected this year. Under the proposal, food manufacturers would use approved symbols to alert consumers to high levels of sugars, sodium or saturated fat.
Health Canada is continuing to develop and update voluntary targets for sodium reduction by restaurants and food manufacturers. Canadian food manufacturers were advised this year to expect increased regulatory monitoring of the industry’s progress toward meeting the sodium reduction targets in processed foods.
Are You Prepared?
The Canadian food industry should prepare for another busy year of new or revised policies from Canadian food safety and nutrition agencies. Food industry professionals should monitor the regulatory developments and understand how new rules might impact their business. A wealth of food safety information is available from the scientific literature, government compliance data, and outbreak investigation reports. A scientific literature review can provide valuable information to support compliance with the evolving food regulations. For more information, contact us about Literature Review Services.
This blog contains content from our current North American Regulatory Report, which is a quarterly update of food regulatory news.