An essential part of any day, food is all around us.  Accessible from a variety of sources, everywhere from grocery stores to department stores to speciality retailers, if a threat arises, the risk posed to consumers can be grave. Seemingly simple mistakes such as incorrectly labelled allergens can have an astoundingly large impact on the health and safety of consumers.  In absence of regulation, the health and safety of not only Canadians but those who receive imported and exported goods would be at risk. So, just how exactly are these products regulated?

What legislation governs food regulations?

Far from just cosmetics and drugs, Health Canada has responsibility to ensure the safety of food for Canadians under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act (FDA). Relative to the regulations of food the government of Canada describes the act as “the primary legislation governing the safety and nutritional quality of food sold in Canada”. The Act outlines the required standards for food as well as other more specific situations including food additives and foods for special dietary use.

How is Food Regulated?

Foods are regulated differently based on their classification. For example, different labelling and advertising requirements exist for cereal versus alcohol. Various products also have different rules and regulations surrounding factors such as their claims (ie. Nutrition or function claims). To help those in industry better understand the regulations, requirements and rules for more special/innovative products, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) provides both support and information to these companies.

How are Recalls Executed?

There are several events that could play a role in the recall of food. Some of the triggers that could promote recall of a food product are circumstances such as consumer complaints about a product or an established link between a public illness and a certain food. These recalls are moderated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), who also has the important role of carrying out investigations to ensure that producers are preparing foods in an environment that avoids contamination or other serious circumstances.

A Recent Case of Recall: Romaine Lettuce

The urgency and effectiveness of the regulatory bodies in both the US and Canada proved to be very efficient recently with the ongoing recall of romaine lettuce originating from regions in California. Several individuals of varying ages were found to experience sickness as a result of consuming the E.coli contaminated lettuce. With proper investigation, the spread of infection was contained to a smaller number of cases (ie.59 reported cases in the US and 22 in Canada). With a food as popular as romaine lettuce, found at almost any restaurant or household, the threat of infection could have been more widespread without recall.  Containing the outbreak and proper identification of the source allows for the health of Canadians to be maintained. Regulatory government agencies in both the United States and Canada continue to keep a close eye on the situation monitoring any changes or concerns.  

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Focal Point Research Inc.  We are leading Canadian regulatory and Health Canada consultants for Natural Health ProductsOTC DrugsCosmetics, and other personal care products.