Health Canada to update food additive regulations

Comments Off November 9, 2012 at 10:15 am by Food in Canada magazine staff

Ottawa – After 50 years, Health Canada is updating Canada’s regulations for food additives.

Health Canada says its new system doesn’t change the thorough safety assessment that is conducted by Health Canada scientists for all food additives.

It will, however, allow Health Canada to act faster to authorize food additives that have health and safety benefits, or to respond to health and safety concerns about an existing additive.

It’s expected that once the scientific assessment has been completed for new food additives, the process to update these lists will save between 12 and 18 months.

Food additives

Food additives are substances that affect the nature of a food (flavour, colour, consistency etc.) and remain in the finished food product at some level.

Health Canada maintains a list of all approved food additives.

Until now, even when scientists showed a new additive could reduce the risk of a potential serious food-borne illness outbreak, it took an additional 12 to 18 months for the regulatory process to actually change the list and make the product legal.

“Canada’s system for regulating food additives was set-up over 50 years ago,” says Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s minister of Health.

“What worked in the 1950s and 1960s simply can’t keep up with the needs and expectations of Canadians today.”

Moving forward, Health Canada will maintain publicly available lists on its website. Additives considered legal for use in Canada will be on the list, and any limits on their use will be clearly spelled out.

Visit the Health Canada website for the additive lists.

Industry response

The Food & Consumer Products of Canada says it’s been advocating for this change and welcomes the news. The FCPC is the largest industry association, representing Canadian-operated food, beverage and consumer product companies.

The FCPC says that under the improved system, once Health Canada completes its rigorous safety checks, the minister can approve the additive.

This process will help bring new products to market sooner, such as products with the natural sweetener stevia – an additive approved in the U.S. and Australia four years ago.