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Canadian and U.S. Agencies Partner to Modernize Food Safety

December 12, 2011 32 comments

As Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration, I led a delegation to Ottawa on October 21 to meet with officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to discuss how to best cooperate on our efforts to modernize our respective food safety systems.  I also had the opportunity to hear from Canadian industry representatives on their ideas of how FDA could implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the most efficient manner as we continue to protect public health.  This trip furthered our efforts to reach out and collaborate with our colleagues abroad who will be our partners as we put FSMA in place, especially those provisions concerning imported food.

The trip also allowed both sides to step back and reflect on the importance of the U.S.-Canadian relationship in achieving the goals that FSMA has laid out for us, in line with FDA’s mission to protect public health.  On the trade front, Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner in terms of agricultural imports.  Because so much food is exchanged across our border every day, our governments share a keen interest in ensuring that this food is safe for our consumers.  However, we also have an obligation to make sure that companies are not unnecessarily burdened.

A major highlight of the trip for me was the industry outreach session where I received comments and questions on FSMA directly from Canadian industry.  We listened as industry described several different types of preventive control programs that they believe could be useful for FDA as we implement FSMA requirements.  Industry also expressed keen interest in the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, especially with regard to its proposed scope and applicability.  We also answered questions on topics ranging from the definition of “importer” to exceptions for small business to user fees.

Our delegation also engaged on a technical level with our Canadian counterparts to investigate areas where we could cooperate on food safety modernization efforts.  Exchanging inspection and compliance information, with a view toward leveraging each other’s resources, was an activity that both sides agreed to pursue.  Also, Canada expressed interest in working with FDA’s FSMA imports implementation team on best practices for import controls, laboratory accreditation and third party certification, among other modernization areas.

The FDA looks forward to continue working with our CFIA and Health Canada counterparts in the months ahead to strategize, prioritize, and exchange ideas on how we can cooperate to accomplish our common public health goals. Our respective food safety systems are already well-developed, but we recognize the need to make continual improvements.  Our modernization efforts will not necessarily be identical, but I know that close cooperation between U.S. and Canadian regulators, such as we had during our trip, will allow us to move forward together to protect public health and continue as strong trade partners.

Michael R. Taylor
Deputy Commissioner for Foods

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