OTTAWA, Ontario – The Canadian government has introduced legislation that will overhaul the country’s food safety laws and that the government says will strengthen the federal government’s oversight of the Canada’s food supply.

The Safe Food for Canadians Act will consolidate regulations that govern food safety in Canada, among other activities. Currently, food safety is managed through five different acts: the Food and Drugs Act, Fish Inspection Act, Meat Inspection Act, Canada Agricultural Products Act, and the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act. The proposed legislation addresses food safety on several fronts by:

• Instituting a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities;
• Implementing tougher penalties for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk;
• Providing better control over imports and exports; and
• Strengthening food traceability.

The Act would align inspection and enforcement powers across all food commodities, reducing overlap and helping industry better understand and comply with food safety law, the government said. Also, the bill would provide a new mechanism for regulated firms to seek review of certain decisions made by Canadian Food and Inspection Agency officials.

If passed, the bill also would impose tougher fines for food safety offenses. Under the new bill, for example, penalties could be as high as C$5 million or higher for the most serious offenses. The bill also imposes new penalties for recklessly endangering consumers through tampering, deceptive practices or fraud.

The government also said the proposed law would enhance international market opportunities for the Canadian food industry by aligning Canada’s food safety system with those of its key trading partners. The bill creates a new authority that would allow certification of any food commodity for export. The Act also strengthens controls over imported food commodities, introduces powers to register or license regulated parties, and prohibits the importation of unsafe foods, according to the government.

"Our government is committed to making food as safe as possible for Canadian families," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "The Safe Food for Canadians Act strengthens and modernizes our food safety system to make sure it continues to provide safe food for Canadians."

The bill was submitted to the Senate for introduction and first reading on June 6.