| This year, in recognition of the fact that Canada has lagged behind other countries in food safety regulation, the Canadian government will take significant steps to improve the safety of both imported and exported foods.
Announcing the plans, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted that Canada is about a decade behind other countries with regards to product recall legislation. Due to growing concerns over food safety, 2008 will see the introduction of new food safety initiatives, including enabling the government to issue mandatory product recalls.
Food safety is an international issue, and Prime Minister Harper cited the 2006 E.coli outbreak which was traced to tainted spinach from California and caused three deaths and hundreds of other illnesses.
Such issues are becoming more of a concern, with a recent rise in the number of recalled toys, food and drugs — including one recall last month for Pokemon brand Valentine lollipops, some of which were found to contain metal fragments (including a staple and part of a razor blade).
Due to the current state of food safety, the Government of Canada is implementing the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan to legislate tougher federal government regulation of food, health and consumer products.
Initiatives include providing better product information to consumers and aiding industries in improving safety measures, in the hopes of preventing problems before products have been distributed for consumer consumption.
Another intitiative requires companies to conduct safety tests on consumer and health products and also provide the results to the proper authorities, thereby allowing a closer focus on products posing the highest or unknown hazards or risks to the public.
Another important aspect of the legislation gives the Government the power to act more quickly to protect the public from unsafe consumer and health products, thereby strengthening the process of overseeing food product recalls and enabling the Government to pull unsafe products from store shelves. The legislation also includes placing increased responsibility on importers to ensure the safety of goods they bring into Canada. As well, maximum Food and Drug Act fines will be increased from the current $5,000 up to international standards - which can reach up to $1 million in the European Union. The hope is that these initiatives will result in stricter licensing and increased inspections of goods.
Currently, the key departments that administer and enforce legislation regarding food, health and consumer product safety are: Health Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. For more information on the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan, visit the relevant Government of Canada websites.