Canada Proposes Single Food Safety Inspection Model

In May 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published a report called The Improved Food Inspection Model: The Case for Change which outlined the agency's current approach to food inspection, the context for a new food inspection approach, and the proposed components of an improved food inspection model.

The report explains that when CFIA was first established in 1997, it brought together food inspection programs from different federal departments with diverse inspection approaches. As a result, CFIA currently administers eight, separate food inspection programs including:

  • dairy
  • egg
  • fish and seafood
  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • imported and manufactured food
  • maple
  • meat
  • processed products (including honey)

Without a standardized food safety inspection model, CFIA has struggled to provide consistent oversight of all regulated food. According to the CFIA report:

Having eight food programs has resulted in the development and use of different risk management frameworks, inspection methods, and compliance verification and enforcement approaches. This challenges the CFIA to manage risks consistently across different types of establishments and different foods. It creates situations in which foods of similar risks may be inspected at different frequencies or in different ways. The eight food programs also result in industry having to meet multiple and different requirements that are challenging to address.

The challenge of maintaining eight different inspection programs coupled with changing methods of global food production, processing and distribution has necessitated the development of an improved and standardized food inspection model.

Earlier this month, CFIA drafted a proposal for a single food inspection model based on risk and prevention of non-compliance that would replace the eight food inspection programs the agency currently operates. The new model has five key components:

  1. Licensing/registration – A licensing and registration requirement for regulated parties that import or export food or that manufacture or process food for trade between provinces;
  2. CFIA oversight – Varying levels of CFIA oversight that would be based on the level of risk;
  3. Inspection – A systems approach to inspection that would assess the preventative control plans and procedures of regulated parties to ensure that food is prepared safely and complies with regulations;
  4. Compliance and enforcement – One common compliance and enforcement strategy for food; and
  5. System performance – Mechanisms to evaluate the CFIA’s inspection program for consistency, effectiveness and performance.

CFIA is hopeful that an updated food inspection system will benefit the food industry in a number of ways. For instance:

Inspection modernization will improve market access and give Canadian companies the flexibility to design controls that demonstrate their operations and products comply with all relevant federal standards. It will also create a more level playing field for businesses by streamlining the inspection process into a single system and eliminating the need for businesses to address multiple requirements.

In addition, the new model is also intended to increase transparency thus providing consumers with greater confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of their food.

The CFIA is seeking comments from the public including consumers and industry stakeholders until October 31, 2012 on the proposed draft model and intends to organize extensive outreach activities with CFIA inspectors, consumer associations, industry, and federal, provincial and territorial government counterparts in the fall. 

FDA Issues Warning on Alcoholic Energy Drinks; States Move to Ban "Blackout in a Can"

Note: The following is authored by guest blogger Jake Storms, from the Alcoholic Beverages Law Blog.

Amidst rising incidences of hospitalizations in college and teenage drinkers linked to consumption of alcoholic energy drinks, the Washington State Liquor Control Board banned their sale effective tomorrow, November 18, 2010. The move came on the heels of a request by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, whose office stated in a November 10 press release that they were “…particularly concerned that these drinks tend to target young people.”

The Liquor Control Board placed the ban in an emergency ruling which will last for 120 days. During that time, the Liquor Control Board will move to make the ban permanent. Liquor Control Board Chairperson Sharon Foster stated, “[t]he Board is acting in the public safety…the Board is acting now to ensure these products do not contribute to a tragedy before the Food and Drug Administration or Legislature can act.” Earlier this year, the Liquor Control Board had lobbied for State legislative action to ban the sale of caffeinated malt beverages in Washington but those efforts were unsuccessful. A list of particular products affected by the Liquor Control Board’s ruling can be seen here.

Washington’s ban is merely the most recent action in an ever increasing movement by states to control the sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission Chairman stated in an October press release that, “…alcoholic energy drinks should be removed from the market until further research isdone.” The OLCC also stated that it is currently looking into possible regulatory efforts with the state legislature and is reaching out to community organizations to warn them of the dangers of the beverages.

While California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has not yet made a statement regarding the drinks, Connecticut announced Monday that it had reached agreements with state distributors to voluntarily stop shipments of caffeinated alcoholic beverages starting December 10, 2010. Michigan has banned one particular brand of caffeinated alcoholic beverage, Four Loko. New York has reached an agreement with Phusion Projects LLC, the manufacturer of Four Loko, to stop sales in the state until “…emerging science, regulatory developments or other relevant changes in circumstances arise." Utah and Oklahoma have followed Washington’s lead in banning the sale of any brands altogether. Massachusetts’ Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission stated that it will file an emergency ruling, similar to Washington’s, on Monday, November 22, 2010.

At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is currently reviewing whether caffeine is a safe additive to alcoholic beverages. A negative finding would essentially ban the sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages nationwide. It is widely assumed the FDA will, in fact, reach a negative finding. NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who has been lobbying for a ban on the drinks, stated that the FDA decision “…should be the nail in the coffin of these dangerous and toxic drinks.” The FDA decision is expected within the week.