On the heels of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak spanning four provinces and the nation’s largest beef recall, Ottawa has sprung into action on pending food safety legislation.
Stalled since last spring, the Safe Food for Canadians Act was adopted by mid-week by the 108-member Senate. It will not become law in Canada unless it passes the dominant branch of Canada’s Parliament, the House of Commons.
“Canadian consumers have always been our Government’s top priority when it comes to food safety,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “This legislation demonstrates the Harper Government’s commitment to strengthening Canada’s food safety system and we hope this legislative is passed expeditiously by Members of Parliament.”
The Safe Food for Canadian Act, S-11, shares some of the same goals as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress in the United States almost two years ago.
Under the law passed by the Red Chamber, as Canada’s Senate is sometimes called, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would acquire greater powers to compel food producers to provide information in a timely and standardized manner and to impose traceability systems on food producers.
Prime Minister Harper’s government requested the legislation. His Conservative Party has controlled Canada’s federal government since 2006. The bill also imposes tougher penalties for intentional activity that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk, requires a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities and imposes better controls over imports and exports.
The current E. coli outbreak involving a large beef plant at Brooks, Alberta is the most serious food safety crisis faced by the Harper Government since the 2008 Listeria outbreak linked to meat from Maple Leaf Foods.