US and Canadian food safety systems comparable, FDA says

By Stephen Davies

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WASHINGTON, May 4, 2016 - Food and Drug Administration and Canadian food authorities will cooperate on a range of food safety issues after agreeing that their food safety systems are comparable.

FDA announced Wednesday that it had reached an arrangement with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Department of Health of Canada (Health Canada) to cooperate on food safety issues and communicate regularly.

Lets Talk Food

It's the second time FDA has recognized a foreign food safety system as comparable: The first was New Zealand in 2012, and “a similar system recognition process is underway between FDA and Australia and the European Commission,” FDA said.

The Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement “establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a variety of areas that range from scientific collaboration to outbreak response,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The arrangement offers benefits to each country and will consider the oversight of the partner country when prioritizing inspectional activities.”

The Food Safety Modernization Act gives FDA “a variety of new authorities to help ensure the safety of imported foods, and provides for taking into account the capability of the regulatory system of the exporting country to assure compliance with U.S. food safety standards for a given food,” FDA said in a background document on Systems Recognition.


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The arrangement defines “food” as “any article used as food or drink for humans, chewing gum,” and anything used in such items. Excluded from the arrangement are meat, poultry, processed egg products, farmed catfish and catfish products, Grade “A” milk and Grade “A” milk products, raw bivalve molluscan shellfish, and dietary supplements and natural health products.

According to the arrangement, FDA and its Canadian counterparts will, “to the extent reasonably possible”: 

  • Continue to cooperate on food safety and to facilitate regular communications related to their countries' respective food safety systems;
  • Promote the management of food safety risks prior to export;
  • Consistent with any applicable domestic laws and regulations, consult and collaborate on the development of changes to their food safety policies and regulatory approaches as they impact the standards that have been assessed under this Arrangement in order to optimize the prospects for continued comparability of degree of food safety control;
  • Encourage early discussion of respective policy approaches when faced with similar food safety issues and challenges, which will allow for the exchange of best practices and approaches and enhance the likelihood for similar or complementary approaches to be considered, where applicable;
  • Work cooperatively to ensure prompt notification of a food safety concern regarding food traded between the two countries, and, as may be mutually determined, food originating from a third country that may have been shipped to either of the two countries;
  • Work cooperatively when investigating a food safety concern associated with food that is traded between the two countries to facilitate appropriate risk management interventions; and
  • Collaborate, as appropriate, on foreign inspections and foreign audits and, as mutually determined, share results to support the effective use of the participants' resources.

 

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