The Food & Consumer Products of Canada commissioned the George Morris Centre, a Guelph, Ont.-based independent agri-food think tank, to review Canada’s current food-regulatory system.
What the recently released report found was that the Canadian government does encourage the food industry to innovate and launch food and beverage products with health benefits. But its food rules and regulations actually hinder that innovation.
In fact, the report says: “[Canada’s food rules and regulations] are outdated, poorly functioning…Simply put, our trade and investment competitors are enabling their producers and processors and Canada is not.”
The report compared Canada’s regulatory system to the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia/New Zealand. It also looked at 12 case studies and reviewed innovative products and the use of health claims that are not available in Canada.
The authors came to several conclusions, which include:
• Canada is not competitive. Its food regulatory system is far behind those of leading nations in the world. It is less accountable and has more lags. The problem exists in all three parts of the system: the legislation, regulations and administration/processes.
• Canada’s regulatory system needs to be brought into the 21st century. Canada’s system needs a legislative framework, as other countries have, that incorporates objectives for both health protection and food innovation.
• The costs associated with Canada’s lagging system are very high and far-reaching.
• Lack of commercialization opportunity fuels the decline of the sector.
• There is no evidence that the lags are the result of measures to help improve the health and safety of Canadians.
The report also made several recommendations. They include establishing a political will to reform Canada’s food regulatory system; re-writing the legislation to incorporate clear objectives, efficiency in the food system and maximum length of time for regulators to make decisions and a requirement that they be held accountable to cabinet when the time line is exceeded; and re-writing the regulations to be compliant.
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