OTTAWA, Canada – Canada’s House of Commons has passed legislation to modernize, consolidate and add consistency to Canada's food inspection system, in the aftermath of the massive E. coli recall of beef products made at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta, according to CBC News.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said although the legislation is not a direct response to September's XL Foods recall and ultimate temporary shutdown, federal Bill S-11 will provide a "more consistent" approach to food inspection, allowing a "uniform approach" across all food commodities. Bill S-11 began in the Senate in June. On Tuesday night, it passed a third reading unanimously and only royal assent remains before the bill becomes law.
Ritz highlighted several improvements contained in the Safe Food for Canadians Act S before the final vote on Tuesday: Better traceability in the food system, which will make it easier to recall products; new record-keeping requirements for regulated facilities and more inspector power to compel producing documents in useable formats; tougher penalties for violations of established safety standards, increasing maximum fines from $250,000 (US $ 250,452) to up to $5 million (US $ 5,009,031), or possibly higher at the court’s discretion; new penalties for "recklessly endangering the lives of Canadians" by tampering, deceptive practices or hoaxes; registration for all food importers; and more authority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to certify exporters, if required by other countries to facilitate trade.
XL Foods’ recall of meat products earlier this fall was the largest recall in Canadian history Ritz said the 2,000 different products subject to the recall as one good example of the complexity of where food products can end up and how they can be processed in different ways throughout Canada.
The legislative basis for Canada's food inspection system was previously spread across multiple bills and involved multiple departments. Ritz told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the next step will be to consult with industry officials to get regulations in place to put the bill's contents into practice.