ARCHIVED - Summary of Stakeholder Feedback to Multi-Year Regulatory Modernization and Plan for Consultation (Discussion Paper)

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Regulatory Modernization Initiative

On December 22nd, 2011, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) posted its Multi-Year Regulatory Modernization discussion document for comment on its external website. It was posted for 60 days. The CFIA received 27 written submissions. This report summarizes the feedback that was received.

Regulatory modernization is crucial to the core business of the CFIA. The CFIA is responsible for the enforcement and administration of 13 federal statutes and 38 sets of regulations. The regulatory modernization initiative represents a shift away from prescriptive, rules-based approaches to outcome-based and more flexible regulatory models.

Modernizing outdated regulations makes good "business sense" for industry, as well as for the CFIA. Throughout the regulatory modernization process the CFIA will continue to seek stakeholder feedback by way of further consultations, in-person meetings, working groups and forums.

About the Respondents

About the Respondents
Category of Respondents Plant Food Animal Total Responses
Consumer Associations       2
Industry
(Including Industry Associations)
8 6 6 20
Government       3
Consultants   1 1 2

What We Heard

Objectives and Guiding Principles

The CFIA received positive and supportive feedback from stakeholders on the Regulatory Modernization Initiative and the guiding principles. We also received the following suggestions and comments:

  • The principle of "enabling an environment of improved business opportunity and consumer choice by facilitating innovation and competitiveness" was very important.
  • Modern regulations are critical to Canada's competitiveness and to attract investment.
  • The need for harmonization with international standards, with frameworks of our trading partners and with provincial legislation was important. Canada needs to maintain its own identity but benefit from the experiences of positive food regulation in other countries. Harmonization should be framed in terms of "to the extent appropriate" rather than "to the extent possible."
  • The need to base regulatory measures on objective science and risk should be added to the principles.
  • The "competitiveness of Canadian agriculture and food businesses" should be added to the objectives.
  • Ultimately food safety is about consumers. There was a lack of consumer protection concerns, such as protection from fraud and deception, in the proposal, which should be corrected. The principles should include ensuring the need for truthful labelling and clear ingredient listing.
  • The move towards risk prevention and flexible regulations was commendable.
  • There should be clarification of the roles and responsibilities of other government departments and provincial governments that work closely with the CFIA.

Timelines – Short-/ Medium-/ Long-Term Priorities

The CFIA received many statements from stakeholders expressing support for the timelines and priorities. We also received the following comments and suggestions:

  • There were concerns that the proposed timelines for regulatory modernization would further delay moving forward with amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) legislation and aligning with the 1991 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (OPOV) Convention. Requests were made that the PBR legislation be given immediate/high priority.
  • There were requests that Schedule III of the Seeds Regulations be renewed quickly so that new varieties can be delivered to farmers in an efficient manner. There were requests that the import program aspects of plant protection in the context of plants with novel traits be given immediate priority. As well, there were requests that Variety Registration and Seed Certification programs should be short term priorities rather than long-term ones.
  • Some stakeholders expressed concern that work on amending the Licensing and Arbitration Regulations will not continue at this time.
  • A number of stakeholders expressed their concerns that the Honey Regulations will be further delayed and urged the CFIA to immediately proceed with new Honey Regulations.
  • Some stakeholders expressed concern that the Hatchery Regulations and supply flock policy are long overdue and that the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII, Transportation of Animals, needs to be dealt with as a short-term priority.
  • Some stakeholders also commented that the priorities of other government departments should be considered where CFIA must work with the other government department, e.g., the Food Directorate, Health Canada, has initiated a regulatory modernization exercise and stakeholders will want to know how CFIA's and Health Canada's plans align.
  • Some stakeholders commented that they were interested to see advancements in e-certification and would like the timeline for this to be shortened.

Consultations

The CFIA received the following comments and suggestions regarding the consultations for the regulatory modernization initiative.

  • Stakeholders were pleased to participate in the consultations and expressed their intention to continue to participate in future consultations.
  • They suggested that value chain roundtables, teleconferences, workshops, working groups with stakeholders and industry sectors would be useful in future consultations in the regulatory review process. An example of a forum that was suggested was the Canadian Fertilizer Products Forum (CFPF).
  • There were recommendations to involve small businesses, industry and consumers in the consultations; that the consultations should build consensus; and that the CFIA external website should be regularly updated regarding progress of the initiative in order to ensure transparency.

Main Issues by CFIA Business Line

Food Safety

Below are the overall comments we received from respondents regarding food.

  • The fresh produce sector has been working on the Licensing and Arbitration Regulations since 2007 and CFIA should continue work on these amendments in parallel with the regulatory modernization initiative.
  • The beekeeping industry has been meeting with the CFIA for years and waiting for over 10 years for the Honey Regulations to be amended. There is customer confusion regarding grade standards relative to country of origin; customer confusion with regard to the incorrect use of the word "pasteurization"; and a need to standardize honey colour grades in order to be consistent with international standards.
  • CFIA should consider Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Regulations for the non-federally registered sector. Such regulations may be needed to access U.S. markets due to the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • Consistent definition of terms would assist in packaging.
  • A Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)-based approach was supported across all sectors.
  • Industry will need adequate time in order to comply with regulatory changes. A suggestion of 24 months as a minimum was made.
  • It is essential for CFIA to recognize the place of consumers and consumer representative organizations in the initiative.
  • Industry is concerned that certain regulations will be "fast-tracked due to interest group agendas of the day."
  • Support and guidance may be needed for stakeholders with limited capacity and who prefer prescriptive measures.
  • In terms of harmonization, CFIA must ensure that international standards are applicable to the Canadian context.
  • Inspection Modernization could affect the priorities of the regulatory review. It would be useful to have other CFIA initiatives reflected in the criteria for determining the priorities for regulatory modernization.
  • Requirements for pre-market approval of product labels and packaging material should be removed because they serve little purpose and inappropriately shift responsibility from industry to CFIA.

Animal Health

Below are the overall comments we received in the submissions from respondents regarding the animal resource base:

  • "Incorporation by reference" should be used where industry standards and third party audits are referenced.
  • Regulatory amendments must be considered in the context of Health Canada requirements so that there is streamlining of requirements.
  • Alternatives to regulations should be considered to maximize flexibility.
  • The current regulatory framework stifles Canadian industry. There is a need for a framework that treats domestic and imported products equally.
  • The use of modern risk management approaches, harmonized with approaches of our trading partners need to be considered.
  • There is a need to recognize HACCP as the most effective methodology for managing food safety risk; this would help to reduce inspection requirements in the manufacture of feed.
  • Consumers are demanding more truthful labelling in order to better understand the composition of a product, e.g., consumers are confused about "all natural", "made from nature", "natural flavour", and "home grown". Consumers are concerned about misleading advertisements and claims issued by food processing industry.
  • The CFIA should put more emphasis on the needs of consumers in the regulatory review.
  • Prescriptive regulations should be retained in areas important to consumers such as in food products labelling.
  • Regulatory frameworks must reflect changes in science and technology.
  • The present approach in the Feed Regulations discourages innovation. The regulations focus on animal nutrition rather than the safety and effectiveness of feed additives.

Plant

Below are the overall comments we received in the submissions from respondents regarding the plant resource base.

  • Stakeholders support outcome-based regulations and harmonization with international standards.
  • In regard to Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR), we heard that due to the weaknesses of the present PBR legislation compared to international standards, some stakeholders are having increasing difficulty in sourcing germplasm from international partners and this is impacting the ability of Canadian plant breeders and developers to invest and to attract international investment. The absence of key elements of the 1991 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention – Canada's PBR legislation only complies with the 1978 convention – is placing Canada at a competitive disadvantage. Canada's trading partners have ratified the 1991 UPOV Convention. Access to new varieties is important for competitiveness and, therefore, amendments to conform to the 1991 UPOV Convention should be made a high priority.
  • Plants should be given full attention in the initiative because plants form the basis of today's agricultural food production.
  • The CFIA should be considering alternate decision processes rather than regulatory amendments for moving crops in Schedule III of the Seeds Regulations.
  • There is a need to reduce overly long wait times to market for new and improved-versions products.
  • The role of the regulator should be to ensure that products meet all safety standards, with proof of efficacy taking a secondary role.
  • Responsibility for truthful labelling should rest with the manufacturer.
  • The CFIA's Fertilizers Branch should introduce on-line processing of applications.
  • More resources should be given to the Agency's Fertilizers Branch so that the regulatory review does not hinder on-going work and create a backlog of applications.
  • There is a need to ensure that regulatory streamlining does not impair the science based reputation of the Canadian fertilizer industry.

What Comes Next

The CFIA will take all the feedback that it has received into consideration as it moves forward with the regulatory modernization initiative. It is clear that a consensus is emerging – the time is right for an updated strategic approach to regulatory modernization that will yield benefits for stakeholders and government alike.

We are committed to on-going consultations with stakeholders, including industry representatives, small businesses, consumers and consumer associations and other government departments. A stakeholder forum entitled "Modernizing Regulations: A Dialogue with Stakeholders" was held in May 2012 and was the first next step in continuing the dialogue on regulatory modernization. Approximately 50 stakeholders participated in the forum along with a number of observers from other government departments. The purpose of the forum was to describe the objectives of regulatory modernization and to increase awareness of the regulatory modernization initiative of the Agency. Overall, the outcome of the forum was positive. Some key messages were that a collaborative approach should be used in the regulatory modernization process and that the desired outcomes in the regulations must be clearly articulated.

The CFIA will adjust the principles of regulatory modernization in view of stakeholder feedback and, in particular, to underscore the vital importance of science and risk management approaches in our decision making. The CFIA will pursue the priorities identified as immediate focus areas including Feeds and Fertilizers renewal. As well, the CFIA is committed to Food legislation which will allow for the renewal of a suite of food regulations, including the Honey Regulations. The CFIA will work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on advancing amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act so that it complies with the 1991 UPOV Convention. Once the Act is amended, regulatory renewal of its regulations will be possible. All our modernization efforts will take into account the work that has been already been conducted and at the same time build on best practices in the regulatory environment.

The CFIA will adjust its strategy as required, based on our experiences, going forward. As part of our overall strategy, we will also align our efforts with other modernization initiatives within the CFIA, such as Inspection Modernization, as well as with regulatory modernization efforts of other government departments.

We thank everyone for their comments and feedback and look forward to continuing stakeholder engagement.

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