Providing more control over imports and boosting traceability expectations, Canada’s new food safety law is expected to bring new requirements to fresh produce operators in the U.S. and Canada.

The Canadian House of Commons has approved Canada’s new federal food safety law Bill S-11 on Nov. 26, and the plan was passed earlier by the Canadian Senate. It will become effective after the formality of “Royal Assent” is given.

In a summary of the new law, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency summarizes the major features of the law, which is focused on improved food safety oversight, streamlined legislative authorities and enhanced international market opportunities.

The law appears to be similar to the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act, said David Acheson, former Food and Drug Administration associate commissioner for food protection and partner in Leavitt Partners, Washington, D.C.

“The potential risk on the U.S. side is what they are going to do about their import controls?” Acheson said.

The U.S. will put in place a Foreign Supplier Verification Program, Acheson said, which requires an agent to represent imports. Canada may also have a similar agent requirement when they implement their law, he said.

“I do know they are heading down that road, which is causing a little consternation for importers and exporters,” Acheson said.

David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, said he doesn’t see anything in the law that will be more onerous than the new U.S. food safety law.

One interesting element to the law is that it states entities performing due diligence in complying with the food safety law shall not be held guilty.

On the other hand, the law states if entities don’t exercise due diligence, people in the company that are party to the food safety problem can be held personally responsible.

The new Canadian food safety law provides new authorities to address immediate food safety risks and builds additional safety into the system, from producer or importer to consumer, according to the CFIA summary. The law also provides the Canadian Food Inspection system with strengthened authorities to develop traceability regulations and includes a new prohibition against selling food commodities that have been recalled.

The summary of the law provided by the CFIA said import controls are beefed up by including powers to register or license importers, holding importers accountable for the safety of imported food.

The legislation provides the authority to certify all food commodities for export, allowing the CFIA to treat exported food commodities consistently.

Canadian food safety law could add to import requirementsRon Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa, said the new food safety law will update a myriad of food safety statutes implemented over several decades.

The updated law should provide more consistent food safety oversight in Canada, he said.

“It should be seen as a positive,” he said.

Lemaire said Canadian food safety officials are looking more closely at fresh produce safety in their oversight role.

“They have recognized produce as a risk area, and, as an industry, we need to recognize the government is seeing it that way and we need to insure that we have the right tools and programs in place,” he said Nov. 27.

One positive element of the law will be to require a license for every company selling food in Canada, Lemaire said.

Lemaire said it is uncertain how soon CFIA will develop specific regulations to implement the law but said he welcomes the process.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to look at our regulations and modernize them to work in today’s business requirements,” Lemaire said.