Collaboration between food industry and government regulators would make a good system better

www.conferenceboard.ca

OTTAWA, Feb. 1, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada's food industry and government regulators have an opportunity to work as partners to make a good system even better, according to a Conference Board of Canada report, All Together Now: Regulation and Food Industry Performance.

"As a top-tier food producer, Canada is starting from a position of strength. If we build on our current advantages by improving our regulatory systems, we will have the best of both worlds - internationally competitive food companies and a safe regulatory environment," said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning.

Food is one of the most heavily regulated sectors in Canada. Laws, regulations, and administrative procedures come from all levels of government. Businesses that innovate in areas such as food additives, infant formula and novel foods, or those that wish to make a health claim, face an especially heavy regulatory standard.

Despite the high level of regulation in Canada's food sector, a survey of almost 1,200 businesses for the Conference Board's Centre for Food in Canada found that a majority of respondents see regulation as either somewhat or very positive for business performance. Furthermore, there is no appetite in business for significant deregulation of the industry.

However, the food industry has also indicated that it sees room for improvement in the regulatory system. The main areas identified are regulatory scope, the transparency of the pre-market approval system and the functioning of the inspection system.

The Conference Board concludes that the food regulatory system would benefit from a more performance-based approach. Setting clearly-defined national objectives in areas such as safety, nutrition and health would enable measurement as to whether regulatory activities achieve public policy goals. Once objectives are set, food companies would be expected to meet these performance benchmarks - as is done in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The report identifies structural and process reforms that could help to improve outcomes for food safety and nutrition, while supporting the viability of food businesses. These include:

  • Defining national food goals and performance measures;
  • Enacting a new Food Act to replace the Food and Drugs Act;
  • Instituting an ombudsman to adjudicate disputes between companies and regulators;
  • Recognizing the growing role of private standards, and incorporating both public and private systems into a co-regulation model;
  • Harmonizing domestic regulatory systems, and selectively harmonizing Canadian and U.S. systems; and
  • Recognizing, on a selective basis, pre-market reviews of Canada's major trading partners for innovative food products, to expedite the Canadian approval process.

This report is produced for the Centre for Food in Canada (CFIC). Launched in 2010, CFIC is a multi-year Conference Board of Canada program of research and dialogue. About 25 companies and organizations have invested in the project, which will culminate in 2013 with the development of a Canadian Food Strategy.

Link to report: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=4666
Link to Centre for Food in Canada: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cfic.aspx
Link to Canadian Food Summit 2012:
http://www.conferenceboard.ca/conf/12-0018.aspx

SOURCE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA

For further information:

Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext.  448
E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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