Parliament is now recessed until Sept. 14, 2009. The end of the second session of the 40th Parliament is a good time to provide a status report on a number of federal initiatives.
New Food Fortification Regulations
More than 10 years in the making and they almost made it. The long awaited new regime to allow for discretionary fortification got through the bureaucratic regulatory process at last but was blocked on the one yard line in the Health minister’s office.
The food industry has long argued that the current rules are seriously out of date, overly restrictive and deny Canadians a range of products that are readily available in most other countries. The Dietitians of Canada and other nutritionists lobbied hard against the changes arguing that they would allow the food industry to fortify “junk foods.” Details of the proposal were leaked and pressure on the minister intensified with an early release of a harshly critical Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial that received considerable coverage in the popular press.
Explanations for this time-wasting model of bad bureaucratic policy-making differ depending on whom you talk to. Some serious work on a definition of “junk food” and defining a system exempting those foods is not impossible but, unfortunately, this is probably not forthcoming as there are divisions even within the Department on how to deal with this issue.
Health Canada laboured long and hard and delivered a mouse. With its “case by case” policy, there is still complete regulatory confusion. The failure to resolve the food fortification issue and waffling on health claims further complicate the effort to improve regulatory certainty.
Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Food Safety
The Committee released its final report on June 18. Predictably, the Opposition parties called for a full public inquiry. They won’t get it. The process was overly partisan and much of the report is lacking in intellectual rigour. There are some good suggestions and some silly ones, such as recommending the federal government “implement a system to recognize the equivalence of existing provincial inspection systems.” There are no equivalent systems so it is not clear what this means. It was interpreted in the media as meaning that the federal meat inspection system should be imposed on the provinces for one national standard. This is neither possible nor desirable.