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Innovation and global competitiveness

January 2019

Two female food scientists in a lab. One scientist is inspecting a tomato under a microscope, and the other is recording the results on a laptop.

Strong, flexible regulations that focus on prevention goes a long way in supporting the food industry's ability to innovate and compete globally. It also helps the food industry keep pace with advances in science and technology.

With the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is applying flexible regulatory approaches to reduce risks. Being responsive in our approach provides opportunities for industry to innovate and respond to new challenges and developments in a competitive global marketplace while still maintaining high standards of food safety.

Different processes, same outcome

The SFCR specify the outcome that a business must meet, rather than describing the way it must be met. This is where businesses are able to introduce new technologies, processes and procedures.

For example, an "outcome-based" requirement in the regulations states that the floor of a food establishment must have enough drainage to prevent the pooling of water, whereas a "prescriptive" regulation might have stipulated the exact distance between drains. The difference in these two approaches is the first enables industry to innovate, and could possibly prevent them from having to make costly renovations that aren't necessary. The important thing is that both of these approaches, the result is the same: risks to food safety are reduced.

Proven methods

While the regulations provide businesses with opportunity to innovate and compete globally by using new technologies, processes and procedures, industry still needs to provide evidence that their chosen methods are effective. The level of evidence needed depends on the associated level of risk.

For well-documented and known control measures like a cooking process that meets pre-established time and temperature parameters, industry need to show that they are meeting the established standards. For a new type of control measure like using a UV treatment to eliminate pathogens in a food, the business needs evidence that this method meets all desired outcomes (such as that there are no pathogens left in the food). For this example, the evidence needed could take the form of an in-house experiment or existing peer-reviewed literature. The CFIA can then focus its oversight on making sure the process is being used as defined in the evidence establishing the safety of the process, and that food businesses are monitoring the effectiveness of food safety interventions.

In areas where a specific standard or process is deemed necessary to reduce risks, the regulations continue to specify a more prescriptive requirement. For example, the regulations for using a bladder as a natural casing for meat products require that the bladder is placed in brine for at least 12 hours.

Contributing to Canadian competitiveness

From an international perspective, Canada's key trading partners, including the United States, the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand, continue to have confidence in our food safety system because the new regulations align with their approaches to food safety.

To learn more about the SFCR, visit our tools, information and resources.

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