The Conservative government is using its massive budget bill to update Canada’s food regulations so new health claims, food additives and chemical contamination caps can be approved much more quickly.
The new tools to speed up the food regulatory process once Health Canada scientists determine a product is safe are part of the government’s Budget Implementation Act, tabled in the House of Commons Thursday.
“The current tools we use to regulate some food products are rigid and outdated,” Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a statement. “Our new approach will allow more timely approvals of safe, innovative products, while still protecting the health and safety of Canadians.”
Currently, it can take years for Health Canada to update regulations to allow the use of a new food additive, to set a limit for a chemical residue or to approve a new health claim on a food.
The new instruments outlined in the budget bill, called “Marketing Authorizations,” will empower the health minister to make changes using so-called ministerial regulations after the department concludes its risk assessment and completes consultations.
The procedural change isn’t about lowering standards, but rather about streamlining the regulatory process so the department can respond more quickly to new scientific information, said Samuel Godefroy, director general of Health Canada’s food directorate.
“It is one of the most important changes in the Food and Drugs Act in terms of bringing the authority of the minister into the 21st century and also bringing us in line with our international partners. It will enable the Canadian food regulatory system to be, in fact, responsive, to be efficient, and effective in protecting Canadians,” he said in an interview Thursday.