Canada’s 2014 Federal budget, part two: Supporting our food modernization initiatives

Candace SiderCandace Sider, Director Regulatory Affairs, Canada One aspect of the 2014 Federal budget that caught my eye was the attention paid to the food sector. I suspect these directives didn’t resonate much with most Canadians, as it wasn’t entirely clear from the budget what their impact could be on Canadians’ day-to-day lives. But I think the importance of these food-related directives is significant.

Essentially, these directives stem from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) aggressive food modernization program. If you’re involved in trade in Canada, you may have heard some rumbling about this, and the Safe Food for Canadians Act. The bottom line is that the CFIA is looking to use better, more modern techniques to inspect and license food in Canada, in order to further strengthen our overall food safety system. If you’ve heard the news about the various food recalls in the past couple of years – and frantically checked your fridge to make sure your cheese and sandwich meats were OK, like I have – you can certainly understand the importance of these initiatives.

What does this have to do with the Federal budget? Well, these initiatives cost money, and that’s where the budget comes in!

The budget highlights some specifics attributed to CFIA:

  • The Government proposes to provide $153.6 million over the next five years to enhance food safety programs. This involves hiring over 200 new inspectors and other staff, developing programs to minimize food safety risks and enhancing capacity to prevent unsafe food imports from entering Canada.
  • The Government proposes to provide $30.7 million over the next five years to establish a Food Safety Information Network to link federal and provincial food safety authorities and private food testing laboratories across Canada.
  • The Government proposes to provide $205.5 million over five years to CFIA, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to implement routine measures aimed at minimizing the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a.k.a. mad cow disease, within the cattle population.

It’s clear from the money being earmarked to the modernization plan that this is an important issue for the Canadian government. What’s not clear right now is whether or not Canadian food importers and exporters are ready for this modernization shift. Are they prepared for the new licensing and inspection commitments?

At Livingston, we’ve been ramping up awareness with client communications, webinars, and resources, and we’ll continue to do so throughout the year. The Safe Food for Canadians Act is currently scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2015. As we get closer to that date I’ll be sharing more about the impact of these regulatory changes on importer and exporters right here, so check back soon to see the latest!