OTTAWA, Sept. 1, 2011 /CNW/ - Canada's system of food policies, laws and
regulations is generally working well to protect the health and
well-being of Canadians. But well-intentioned regulations have not yet
produced an effective system that boosts innovation and stimulates
The food sector is one of the most highly controlled sectors of the
economy, and the sheer number of government policies, laws and
regulations (PLRs) has grown steadily over the years. The Conference
Board of Canada's second foundational report for the Centre for Food in
Canada, Governing Food: Policies, Laws, and Regulations for Food in Canada, concludes that policy-makers and regulators do their best to balance
the competing demands of industry, multiple governments and consumers,
but are hamstrung by an overloaded system. The system needs to be
modernized; the current architecture has been developed by continual
add-ons and consequently is burdensome and confusing.
"There is no quick fix to Canada's system for governing food. The
problem is not so much in the actions being taken today, but rather the
cumulative weight of existing PLRs and the motivations for them," said
Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and
Learning. "Not only are parts of the current PLR system out-of date,
multiple levels of government are involved, that sometimes act at
cross-purposes to one another. The system can be described as suffering
from 'scope creep'."
The Conference Board outlines five key attributes for optimal PLR
systems. Optimal systems are:
Proportionate—they align the regulatory burden with the severity of
Responsive—they adapt easily to new circumstances, such as food industry
Efficient—they achieve regulatory outcomes at low cost.
Effective— they achieve their regulatory objectives.
Transparent—they can be understood by all stakeholders.
The PLR system attempts to address a wide variety of public interests,
including safety, the environment, health, and economic sustainability.
But the more goals it takes on, the more costly and slow moving it
becomes—in turn, undermining its overall cost-effectiveness and
stifling industry innovation. There are few self-rationalizing
mechanisms that allow the system to respond to new demands without
adding to the regulatory burden.
The report reviews the Canadian approach to food regulation based on a
study of six issues: food additives, genetically modified foods, health
benefit claims, country-of-origin labelling, inspection, and
In the areas of genetically modified foods, country-of-origin labelling,
and food additives, the Canadian approach balances regulatory needs
with industry sensitivities. However, the approach to health benefit
claims, inspection, and international trade is not as effective,
creating barriers to innovation in this sector.
Canada's inspection system - which has benefited from the consolidation
of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency - is shared among three levels
of government and also depends on the quality management processes of
food producers throughout the supply chain. A prerequisite to reform is
for the food industry and regulators to create more trusting and
cooperative relationships - based on their mutual interest in safe
food. On the issue of international trade, Canada is in the early
stages of liberalizing its agricultural trade. The extent to which
further reform is achieved will depend largely on changes to PLRs.
This report points out specific areas where the PLR system could more
effectively meet the needs of the agriculture and agri-food sector, as
well as government and consumers. A good starting point would be to
revise and modernize the Food and Drugs Act, first enacted in 1920. The
Growing Forward initiative and the federal Cabinet Directive on
Streamlining Regulation are steps in the right direction that should,
if properly implemented, go some way toward limiting regulatory
The modernization of PLRs is likely to be a key element in the Canadian
Food Strategy, to be produced in 2013 by the Centre for Food in Canada.
The Centre for Food in Canada is a multi-year Conference Board of
Canada initiative supported by approximately 25 companies and
organizations that have invested in the project.
SOURCE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA
For further information:
Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 448