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Harper Government Takes Action to Improve Food Safety

OTTAWA, Nov. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced that new regulations have come into force, updating Health Canada's 50-year-old rules for regulating food additives and improving food safety.

"These changes are further proof that our Government is serious about protecting the health and safety of Canadian consumers and their families," said Minister Aglukkaq.  "By making these common sense changes, we are helping safer foods get on to store shelves more quickly."

Food additives are substances that affect the nature of a food (flavour, colour, consistency etc.) and remain in the finished food product at some level. Health Canada maintains a list of all approved food additives. Until now, even when scientists showed a new additive could reduce the risk of a potential serious food-borne illness outbreak, it took an additional 12 to 18 months for the regulatory process to actually change the list and make the product legal.

Health Canada's new system doesn't change the thorough safety assessment that is conducted by Health Canada scientists for all food additives. It will, however, allow Health Canada to act faster to authorize food additives that have health and safety benefits, or to respond to health and safety concerns about an existing additive. It's expected that once the scientific assessment has been completed for new food additives, the process to update these lists will save between 12 and 18 months.

"Canada's system for regulating food additives was set-up over 50 years ago," added Minister Aglukkaq. "What worked in the 1950s and '60s simply can't keep up with the needs and expectations of Canadians today."

Moving forward, Health Canada will maintain publicly available lists on its web site. Any listed additives are considered legal for use in Canada, and any limits on its use will be clearly spelled out. Please visit the Health Canada website for the additive lists.

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FACT SHEET October 2012


New Food Additive Process


Health Canada's new modern process for regulating food additives does not change the thorough safety assessment that is conducted by Health Canada scientists for all food additives.

It will, however, allow Health Canada to act faster to authorize food additives that have health and safety benefits, or to respond to health and safety concerns about an existing additive.

The new process is several steps shorter and the steps are significantly faster because the regulations no longer need to be changed every time a new food additive is approved. 

Instead, should the department determine that a food additive should be authorized (based on the results of the safety assessment and comments received), it's simply a matter of updating a list on the Health Canada web site in order to allow the use of the food additive in Canada. It is expected that the new process will save between 12 and 18 months.

For cases where an applicant was looking to extend the use of an already approved food additive, Health Canada already employed a streamlined system which used Interim Marketing Authorizations to permit the use of the additive while the regulatory amendments were being completed. Under the new system, this type of authorization will also be accomplished faster, enhancing the process that was already in place.  The most significant gains, however, will be for new food additives as outlined above.

Here are some examples of how the new system could improve food safety:

CITREM

CITREM is a product used to keep ingredients in infant formula, including important nutritional components, evenly spread within the formula.  This helps provide consistent and full delivery of nutrients to newborns. It also prevents clogging when the infant formula is delivered through a feeding tube.  Health Canada determined that CITREM could be safely used in June 2008. However, it took another 41 months for the necessary regulatory changes and approvals to enable industry to use this product in infant formula and other foods.

C. maltaromaticum (MICOCIN®)

C. maltaromaticum is a food additive used in certain processed meat and poultry products to help control the growth of harmful bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes.  Health Canada determined that this additive could be safely used in December 2007, but it took another 36 months for the required regulatory changes and approvals to enable industry to market this product.

In both of these cases, the new process would have made a significant difference in protecting the health and safety of Canadians by allowing these additives to be used much sooner.

 

SOURCE PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA

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