After that process, Proctor said CFIA has promised to issue final food safety regulations by January 2015.
“It is a very aggressive timeline, but the good news is that they are committed to align as much as possible with the (U.S.) Food Safety Modernization Act,” she said. “That is good for us on both the U.S. and Canadian sides.”
Proctor said the Canadian regulations are expected to be more outcome-oriented than the FDA’s “prescriptive” approach.
“They are saying ‘These are the outcomes we expect and you can decide how you are going to get there,” Proctor said. “I don’t think we will see the same level of detail we see in some of the Food Safety Modernization Act, but what we know for sure is that it is critical that food safety systems are recognized by each country,” she said.
One key issue for the Canadian food safety law is how importers will be defined. Currently, U.S. exporters can act as a non-resident importer when they ship product to Canada for the purposes of Customs. The CFIA has been considering removing that capacity. A similar capability currently exists for Canadian exporters of fresh produce to the U.S. and Proctor said the FDA and Canada need to agree on an approach.
“Whatever the two governments decide, it needs to be aligned,” she said.
Removing that provision for a non-resident importer could cause trade to become more expensive as exporters may be forced to set up offices within Canada. That could serve to reduce trade between the two countries.
“We don’t want to create an uneven playing field nor do we want to see industry have very burdensome requirements in one country,” she said.
Another concern with pending regulations is the length of time the government may require for record keeping related to traceability. Government officials had earlier indicated a three year record keeping period, but Canadian industry leaders say that period is too long and not comparable to other countries.
In the European Union, for example, traceability record keeping requirements for fresh produce are just six months, Proctor said.
Proctor said Canadian officials have recently indicated they may shorten those traceability requirements based on industry input.