Canada – CFIA recognises a role for private standards within the regulatory framework

This interesting policy, released by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), has to be considered probably a “best practice” and I am sure in future we will see more and more similar public-private cooperation models.

Since the international private standards are so widely used in the food chain, and since they set higher standards then public regulations, why don’t we start to consider them as an helpful tool to prioritize official controls and optimise a risk based approach to food safety? Looking to the current globalisation and to the lack of resources that affect most of the competent authorities, it seems quite a reasonable option. This will be also an incentive to companies and private standard’s owners to ensure that their schemes are consistently implemented and auditing systems are effective. The application of a  recognised standard will result in less burdens and controls from the public competent authorities on the food business operator.

Here below some paragraphs from CFIA policy, that comes into effect on September 3rd, 2015.

Policy Statement

In determining the level of risk associated with a regulated party or their establishment, the CFIA may assess the requirements of a private certification scheme used by the regulated party against food safety regulatory requirements and factor the assessment results into its risk-based planning and prioritization.

It should be noted that there is no requirement by virtue of this policy for a regulated party to become certified to any private certification scheme nor does this negate regulatory oversight.

Objectives

  1. Support an understanding of voluntary, industry-adapted private certification schemes, and the role such private certification schemes may play in achieving compliance with CFIA food safety regulatory requirements;
  2. Provide direction on how industry’s investment in an appropriate private certification schemes will be considered within the CFIA risk-based regulatory framework; and
  3. Provide a foundation to inform future discussions on broader consideration of private certification schemes within the CFIA regulatory framework.

This policy aligns with the direction and requirements provided in the CFIA Program Policy Management Framework for the management of CFIA program policies.

Scope

As private certification has a much wider market penetration in food safety, and that the CFIA food safety program is more advanced in its modernization efforts, while initially this policy will apply to program design and delivery of CFIA‘s risk-based oversight of domestic and imported food, as it relates to food safety, the CFIA is committed to expanding the scope to other aspects (e.g. labelling) and the plant and animal health programs as applicable.

The CFIA will continue to explore other approaches to leveraging industry’s use of private certification schemes in support of public policy objectives.

Background

Private certification schemes are voluntary systems that set process and product requirements as well as the means of demonstrating conformity with these requirements. Companies implement private certification schemes to manage risk, facilitate effective management of products along the supply chain and differentiate products. In recognition of the importance of public endorsement by regulatory bodies, some private certification schemes have been developed with government support and regulatory oversight.

Private certification schemes are a prominent part of the world food supply system and are increasingly being used by industry as a means of achieving food safety and other outcomes. Demand for food safety private certification schemes comes from both the food industry and consumers.

There is a wide range of private certification schemes and many suppliers are facing requirements for multiple audits and certifications. As a result, international efforts are underway to harmonize private certification scheme requirements in order to help reduce costs and improve predictability in market requirements. With respect to food safety, there are global benchmarking initiatives such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) that provide a platform for collaboration between some of the world’s leading food safety experts from industry, international organizations, academia and government on global benchmarking of private certification schemes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is transforming how it delivers its food safety programs and activities to better meet the needs of today’s consumer and industry. The CFIA recognizes that private certification schemes may play an important role in helping industry achieve food safety regulatory objectives, provided they can be assessed as being effective, credible and aligned with public policy objectives.

Private certification has been identified as one of several factors that CFIA will consider in its modernized approach to risk-based oversight. While the CFIA has always incorporated risk into its approach to food safety oversight, a modernized approach will enable improved risk-management by using private certification data to inform CFIA risk-based planning and prioritization within the regulatory framework, and as a resulting consequence, more targeted compliance verification.

Private certification is not intended to replace regulatory enforcement authorities; however, it may complement food safety regulatory oversight. The CFIA will continue to verify compliance of regulated parties; the type, frequency, and intensity of the CFIA‘s oversight activities will be proportional to the risks that need to be managed.

Changing Global Economy

The ways in which food, animals and plants are produced and marketed have changed dramatically. The complexity of the production and distribution landscape has increased, driven by changes in methods of production and processing and increases in international trade. As a result, the challenges of carrying out regulatory oversight are multiplying. Given the growing importance and prevalence of private certification systems, it is important and timely to understand the challenges and opportunities that they present to the CFIA.

Fixed Resource Base

Compounding the inherent complexities associated with a changing global economy, the CFIA is mandated to manage multiple demands and risks (e.g., safety, consumer protection, market access) across multiple sectors (i.e., food, plant, animal). Given that it operates within a fixed resource base, the Agency must optimize its resources by investing in priority areas (e.g. highest risk) and in areas that produce the most significant return (e.g. reduced risk) on investment of effort/resources.

Risk-Based Approach

With pressures from increased globalization and advances in science and technology, the CFIA is modernizing its approach to inspection to maintain a robust approach to human, animal and plant health and consumer protection. The move towards a more preventative and systems-based approach under the Integrated Agency Inspection Model (IAIM) enables both the CFIA and regulated parties to more readily adapt to emerging risks and global and scientific trends.

Furthermore, the CFIA is developing a systematic, transparent and documented method of comparing risks within and across its business lines in order to align strategies, priorities and resources accordingly. This will be accomplished through the development of the CFIA Integrated Risk Management (IRM) Framework.

Expanding Authorities in Food

Currently, the CFIA can license register establishments for activities that relate to some food commodities The new Safe Food for Canadians Act includes provisions that will enable the CFIA to use licensing and registration for all food commodities. In particular, the current non-federally registered sector is a large and diverse food sector that has not previously been subject to CFIA registration or licensing requirements. With an estimated 50,000 regulated parties, many of whom were previously unknown to the Agency, this sector alone represents a significant increase to the number of establishments for which the Agency must consider in its risk-based oversight. It is anticipated that many of these establishments will have implemented a type of private certification scheme. Certification to a private scheme that has been assessed as meeting some or all regulatory requirements will be extremely useful information in assessing risk and determining appropriate regulatory response and oversight for all food commodities.

Existing Agency Initiatives

There are several existing Agency initiatives that have informed the development and implementation of successful programming in support of this policy such as the Food Safety Recognition Program (FSRP), the CFIA use of the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada Feed Assure program, the Canada Organic Regime and Seed Certification System. The FSRP will be particularly instrumental to the development of programming in support of this policy.

The FSRP process involves an evaluation of the technical soundness and administrative effectiveness of food safety systems developed and implemented by Canada’s national (or equivalent) industry organizations. National food industry organizations from the on-farm or post-farm non-federally registered sectors can voluntarily submit their food safety systems to the CFIA FSRP team.

To date, the CFIA has not taken the investments companies have made in the FSRP into consideration in its risk-based oversight approach. The CFIA Private Certification Policy (Food Safety) will be a bridge between the FSRP and theCFIA risk-based oversight.

(Source: CFIA website)

Food Labeling Contrast between China and EU Regulations (Part I)

Today I publish another useful article written by Quinn Hulk, Food and Drug Administration of Beijing – Food Law Advisor and our country contributor for China. You can contact Quinn Hulk directly via e-mail at hulkquinn@163.com.

1. Basic introduction

China National Standard GB7718-2011 General Rule for the Labeling of Pre-packed Foods (hereinafter referred to as GB7718-2011) was promulgated by the Ministry of Health (now National Health and Family Planning Commission of PRC) on 20-04-2011 and entered into force on 20-04-2012, repealing China National Standard GB7718-2004.

China National Standard GB28050-2011 General Rule for Nutrition Labeling of Pre-packed Foods (hereinafter referred to as GB28050-2011) was promulgated by the Ministry of Health (now National Health and Family Planning Commission of PRC) on 12-10-2011 and entered into force on 01-01-2013.

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 was first published on 25-10-2011 and entered into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Considering the various situations among European nations and in order to allow transitional preparation, it sets out different dates for its application. Apart from 2 exceptions, point (l) of Article 9(1) and Part B of Annex VI, which shall apply from 13th Dec 2016 and became applicable from 1st January 2014, the regulation applied from 13th Dec 2014.

2. Scope

GB7718-2011 applies to the label of pre-packed food directly and indirectly provided to consumers. It does not apply to the package for the protection of pre-packed foods in transport and storage, unpacked foods as well as site-selling foods.

As for the unpacked foods, provisions available include Article 54 of Food Safety Law and Regulations on the Hygiene of Unpacked Food(a ministerial regulation still effective but not practicable, barely noticed anymore because it’s made in accordance with Food Hygiene Law, which has been repealed and abolished on 1st June of 2009, replaced by the old version of Food Safety Law

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011 applies to food business operators at all stages of the food chain. It applies to all foods intended for the final consumer, including foods delivered by mass caterers and foods intended for supply to mass caterers. It also applies to catering services provided by transport undertakings when the departure takes place on the territories of the Member States to which the Treaties apply.

Compared with Chinese regulations, Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011 has a much wider scope. It covers basically all foods at all stages.

3.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

List of mandatory particulars

Article 9

GB7718-2011

Labeling information of pre-packed food supplied directly to consumers 4.1

Name of food Name of food
List of ingredients List of ingredients
Allergens Recommended, not mandatory
The net quantity of the food The net quantity of the food and specifications
The quantity of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients Quantitative indication of ingredients
The date of minimum durability or use by date Production date and quality guarantee period (shelf life)
Any special storage conditions or conditions of use Storage conditions
Name or business name and address of the food business operator Name, address, contact information of food manufacturers and food distributors
Country of origin or place of provenance
Instructions for use where it would be difficult to make appropriate use of food in the absence of such instructions
The actual alcoholic strength by volume for beverages containing more than 1.2% alcohol
Nutrition declaration Nutrition label
Product standard code
License No. of food manufacturing certificate
Other

indications

Ionizing radiation processed food or ingredients
Genetically modified foods
Quality grade if stipulated so in product standard

4.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Presentation of mandatory particulars

Article 13

GB7718-2011

Basic requirements

3.9

In Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011, Article 13 requires that the x-height can be equal to or greater than 0,9 mm only when the largest surface of packaging or containers has an area of less than 80 cm2. Under normal circumstances, the x-height should be equal to or greater than 1,2 mm.

 

In GB7718-2011, the height of character should not be less than 1,8mm when the maximum surface area is larger than 35cm2. When the maximum surface area is larger than 10 cm2but less than 35 cm2, the height of character can be less than 1,8mm. The visibility and legibility should not be reduced nonetheless.
Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011 has a minimum size of character. GB7718-2011 doesn’t limit the minimum size.

 

5.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Distance selling

Article 14

GB7718-2011

No such provisions

6.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Omission of certain mandatory particulars

Article 16

GB7718-2011

Exemptions of particulars

4.3

List of ingredients and a nutrition declaration shall not be mandatory for beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol, unless Union provisions require otherwise. Vinegar, salt, solid sugar, monosodium glutamate can be exempted from presenting the information of quality guarantee period together with alcoholic beverages which contain more than 10% by volume of alcohol.
Only the following information shall be mandatory for the packaging or containers the largest surface of which has an area of less than 10cm2.

(1)    the name of the food

(2)    any ingredient or processing aid listed in Annex or derived from a substance or product listed in Annex causing allergies or intolerances used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form

(3)    the net quantity of the food

(4)    the date of minimum durability or the “use by “date

The list of ingredients, however, shall be provided through other means or shall be made available at the request of the consumers.

Only the name of the food, net quantity, name and address of the manufacture (or distributor) are required when the maximum surface area is less than 10cm2.
For glass bottles intended for reuse which are indelibly marked and bear no label, ring or collar, only the following information are mandatory

(1)the name of the food

(2)any ingredient or processing aid listed in Annex or derived from a substance or product listed in Annex causing allergies or intolerances used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in an altered form

(3)the net quantity of the food

(4)the date of minimum durability or the “use by “date

(5) a nutrition declaration

No such provisions.
Nutrition declaration is not mandatory for the foods in Annex V, unless otherwise stipulated by Union provisions.  

7.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Quantitative indication of ingredients

Article 22

GB7718-2011

Quantitative indication of ingredients

4.1.4

If the ingredient or category of ingredients is emphasized on the labeling in words, pictures or graphics, the quantitative indication of an ingredient or category of ingredients shall be required. If one or more valuable and characteristic ingredient or category of ingredients is emphasized in the labeling or instructions, the quantitative indication of an ingredient or category of ingredients shall be required.
No such provisions If it is emphasized that the content of one ingredient or category of ingredients is comparatively low or does not exist, the quantitative indication of the ingredient or category of ingredients shall be required.
If the ingredient or category of ingredients appears in the name of the food or is usually associated with that name by the consumer, the quantitative indication of an ingredient or category of ingredients shall be required. If the ingredient or category of ingredients is just mentioned in the name of the food and no emphasis is made in the labeling, the quantitative indication of an ingredient or category of ingredients is unnecessary.
If the ingredient or category of ingredients is essential to characterize a food and to distinguish it from products with which it might be confused because of its name or appearance, the quantitative indication of an ingredient or category of ingredients shall be required. No such provisions.

8.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Date of minimum durability, ‘use by’ date and date of freezing

Article 24

GB7718-2011

Quality guarantee period

Annex C.4

Date of minimum durability Best before… It is highly suggested that you consume the food before…
Best before end… Consume the food best before…
Use by… Best before…
Frozen on… Best before the date….
Consume the food best before the date…
Quality guaranteed period until…
Quality guaranteed period…months(or days, weeks, years)

9.

Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011

Storage conditions or conditions of use

Article 25

GB7718-2011

The indications of storage condition

Annex C.5

In cases of where foods require special storage conditions and/or conditions of use, those conditions shall be indicated. Store in normal temperature.

Store in refrigeration.

Store in freezing area.

Store in dark place.

Store in cool and dry place.

To enable appropriate storage or use of the food after opening the package, the storage conditions and/or time limit consumption shall be indicated, where appropriate. Store in xx-xx℃.
Please put the product in cool and dry place.
Store in normal temperature and keep refrigerated after opening.
Temperature:≤xx℃,Humidity: ≤xx%

10. Article 13 of Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011 stipulates that food information shall be marked in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible. GB7718-2011 does not have such provisions, which leads to the fact that many MSEs adopt cost-saving way to label the information. In law enforcement practice, we have found that many people (especially so-called ‘professional defective-food buyers’) deliberately erase the poorly labeled food information such as production date in order to extort money from big supermarkets by filing a report to local jurisdictional FDAs. Some supermarkets are likely to erase it and reprint a new production date, which is also illegal.

Overall speaking, Reg. (EU) No 1169/2011 provides a much more detailed and comprehensive provision concerning food labeling information. GB7718-2011 is comparatively less consumer-oriented, which contributes to the fact that local FDAs at provincial and city level are plagued by ‘professional defective-food buyersand spend most of the administrative resources on trivialities and are forced to leave the real food safety problems unattended due to high work burden, lack of food science knowledge and most of all, a bureaucratic system.