Hi and thanks for coming to my new blog on the Food in Canada website. Here, I plan to dish on the latest food trends and the science behind them, and on hot topics in Canadian food-related regulatory law and policy initiatives. In this first entry I’d like to introduce myself and the Canadian regulatory environment to set the stage for future – and arguably more interesting – blogs to come.
First things first: who am I, and why do I care about food and the law? I’m a regulatory lawyer and have been practicing for over 10 years at the intersection of science, regulation and litigation. I have worked both for and against Health Canada, across the entire spectrum of products governed by the Food and Drugs Act and its associated Regulations, from drug products, to natural health products, to foods. I’m a policy buff and love to lobby government for positive reform, on both an industry-wide and case-by-case basis. I am particularly passionate about foods and natural health products (NHPs) and what science tells us about their health benefits.
The key players
Health Canada is responsible for establishing standards and policies governing the safety and nutritional quality of foods, and for developing labelling policies related to health and nutrition. Health Canada is responsible for approving new foods and food additives, and for working with industry to ensure that Canadian food laws are in line with the latest scientific developments.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) develops standards related to the packaging, labelling and advertising of foods, and handles all inspection and enforcement duties. The CFIA is also responsible for the administration of food labelling policies, packaging and advertising and the food-related provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) regulates NHPs for sale in Canada. It is responsible for ensuring the safety, efficacy and high quality of NHPs, and for developing labelling policies relating to these products. The NHPD approves new natural health products and acts as a watchdog over manufacturers and distributors working in the space.
The relevant regulations
The Food and Drug Regulations govern, among other things, the approval and marketing of – you guessed it – foods and drugs in Canada. These Regulations set out the rules regarding importation, labelling (including the allowance of health claims), the approval of novel foods and new food additives and the requirements around good manufacturing practices.
The regulations pertaining to foods are in and of themselves in the range of 1,000 pages. They are intense and can be daunting to navigate. From time to time, Health Canada issues Guidance documents, which set out the agency’s current thinking on a given issue. Although Guidance documents are not binding, they are a great resource for interpreting the Regulations.
The approval and marketing of NHPs are governed by the appropriately titled Natural Health Products Regulations. Similarly to the Food and Drug Regulations, the NHP Regulations set out the rules regarding the importation, approval and labelling of NHPs, as well as the requirements for manufacturing and distributing them according to good manufacturing practices.
Both sets of Regulations are important to the range of products along the food-NHP spectrum, as the definitions within the Regulations overlap and the regulatory processes are not mutually exclusive. Depending on the classification of a product, it will be subject to different standards of approval, can be sold in different dosage forms and can be eligible for different labelling and health claims. As the blog develops, and depending on the topic at hand, I’ll dig into these all-important Regulations and will talk about their highs and lows.
I hope you’ll check back to the blog to dish with me on the latest food trends. I look forward to delivering new entries on a monthly basis and hope you will enjoy reading them!
Sara Zborovski is a partner at Gilbert’s LLP in Toronto, practicing food, beverage and drug law. She also hosts her own blog at www.thefoodlawyer.ca