Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 20 - Evidence - Meeting of June 28, 2012
OTTAWA, Thursday, June 28, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
8:00 a.m. to study Bill S-11, An Act respecting food commodities, including
their inspection, their safety, their labelling and advertising, their
import, export and interprovincial trade, the establishment of standards for
them, the registration or licensing of persons who perform certain
activities related to them, the establishment of standards governing
establishments where those activities are performed and the registration of
establishments where those activities are performed.
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
Also, in welcoming the witnesses, I want to take this opportunity to
thank them for having accepted our invitation to appear before the committee
to help us with our study of Bill S-11. We say thank you very much, Mr.
Horel and Mr. Laws, for appearing before our committee today.
My name is Percy Mockler; I am a senator from New Brunswick and chair of
the committee. At this point I will ask all senators to introduce
Senator Mercer: I am Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia.
Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New
Senator Merchant: Good morning. I am Pana Merchant, and I am from
Senator Mahovlich: Frank Mahovlich, Toronto, Ontario.
Senator Nolin: Pierre Claude Nolin. I represent the province of
Quebec, and I am from Montreal.
Senator Maltais: Ghislain Maltais, from Quebec City.
Senator Buth: Good morning. JoAnne Buth; I am from Manitoba.
Senator Rivard: Michel Rivard, the Laurentides, in Quebec.
Senator Eaton: Good morning. Nicole Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Plett: Good morning. I am Senator Don Plett and I am from
The Chair: This morning, we will continue our study of Bill S-11,
the Safe Food for Canadians Act.
We will continue our study of Bill S-11, the proposed safe food for
Canadians act. The Government of Canada introduced the safe food for
Canadians bill in Parliament to make our food safety system stronger, as
well as reducing overlap for Canadian food producers.
Honourable senators, the act provides clear, consistent, straightforward
inspection and enforcement rules to industry so they can best meet their
responsibility to put safe food on shelves for consumers.
Given that consumers want safe food, they would really like Canada to
adopt the appropriate legislation so they can be assured that food safety in
Canada is at its best.
Honourable senators, in this meeting today we will have two panels.
Appearing on the first panel this morning is Mr. James Laws, Executive
Director of the Canadian Meat Council, and Mr. Robin Horel, President and
CEO, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council.
Again, witnesses, thank you for accepting our invitation. I have been
informed by the clerk that Mr. Laws will make the first presentation, to be
followed by Mr. Horel, and subsequently senators will be asking questions of
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Senator Peterson to the
committee, as he is the critic for Bill S-11. Thank you for being here this
Mr. Laws, the floor is yours.
James M. Laws, Executive Director, Canadian Meat Council: Good
morning. My name is James Laws, and I am the executive director of the
Canadian Meat Council. Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today
about Bill S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act.
Our meat sector is the largest in the food processing industry. It
employs 67,500 people. Its sales amount to over $21.3 billion. In 2011, our
sector exported $1.3 billion in beef and $3.2 billion in pork to over 120
different countries around the world. In total, there are close to 740
federally registered meat establishments that slaughter, process, quarter,
bone, package, preserve or provide storage for meat and are inspected by the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Food safety is the top priority of meat processors. We support measures
aimed at consolidating and modernizing the agency-administered legislation
governing food products.
The agency currently runs eight food inspection programs. Each of them
uses different inspection methods and tools. The Safe Food for Canadians Act
will improve food surveillance by instituting a uniform inspection regime
for all food products and increased control measures for imported food
The government and the industry have known for some time that Canadian
legislation governing food products needs to be modernized and strengthened.
In July 2009, the independent body tasked with investigating the 2008
listeriosis outbreak recommended that the government simplify and modernize
the federal legislation and regulations that have a significant impact on
food safety. That is the very objective of Bill S-11.
We have long maintained that the meat industry in Canada is treated very
differently from other food sectors. That is why we support the
consolidation and modernization of the legislation presented in Bill S-11,
which is causing the repeal of the following acts: the Fish Inspection Act,
the Meat Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act and certain
provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. But the repeal of
the Meat Inspection Act, a 17-page document, is replaced by this new act, a
document of over 60 pages.
There are several notable sections. First, clause 39, which deals with
offences, in the bill imposes:
A person who contravenes a provision of this Act [. . .], or a
provision of the regulations — or fails to do anything the person was
ordered to do by, or does anything the person was ordered not to do by,
the Minister or an inspector under this Act, a fine of not more than
$5,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years or
This fine, which is 20 times more than the fine imposed in the Meat
Inspection Act, is very severe.
Second, clauses 52 to 55 describe incorporation by reference. They state:
A regulation made under subsection 51(1) may incorporate by reference any
document, regardless of its source, either as it exists on a particular date
or as it is amended from time to time.
The meat industry is the most regulated sector in the food industry.
Aside from the requirements that apply to meat and food under the Food and
Drugs Act and its related regulations, and the Consumer Packaging and
Labelling Act, we must comply with the Meat Inspection Act and its related
regulations, as well as with the standard and comprehensive requirements of
the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures, published by the Canadian Food
The manual has 19 chapters and over 1,200 pages of text, and is already
incorporated by reference in the meat inspection regulations, which are
themselves 120 pages. The agency often changes sections in the manual
without consulting the industry. We hope that incorporation by reference
will be applied through a well-defined consultation process for the initial
incorporation of the document, as well as for its future amendments, since
clause 55 of the bill states:
For greater certainty, a document that is incorporated by reference
in a regulation made under subsection 51(1) is not required to be
transmitted for registration or published in the Canada Gazette
by reason only that it is incorporated by reference.
We think that this risks becoming a vicious cycle because at least the
Canada Gazette process, which is slow, is clear and well-explained.
Lastly, we want to point out that the legislation applies only to meat
processors that are inspected by the agency and that export or sell their
meat through interprovincial trade. The new legislation will not create a
unique standard, a national standard for meat inspection. We will continue
to have hundreds of meat processors in Canada operating under different
inspection regimes in the provinces. We think that all the provincial meat
inspection standards should be consistent with the federal meat inspection
Canadians should expect that all the meat products they consume are
compliant with the same rigorous standards, regardless of where they live or
make their purchases.
We are willing to work closely with government representatives and
officials to make sure that the new act establishes a regulatory framework
that will ensure that we are competitive in the international arena and will
encourage the Canadian meat industry to attain the highest standards in food
Thank you for your attention. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Robin Horel, President and CEO, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors
Council: Good morning, senators. Thank you for the invitation to provide
the committee and other interested parties the perspective of the Canadian
Poultry and Egg Processors Council on Bill S-11, the safe food for Canadians
The Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council is the national trade
organization for Canadian chicken and turkey processors, hatcheries that
produce day-old broiler chicks, egg-laying chicks and turkey poults, egg
graders and egg processors. We are now in our sixty-third year and our
council has member companies in every province of Canada. In addition to
representing the interests of more than 170 Canadian poultry processors, egg
processors and hatcheries, our membership includes over 50 national and
international partners who have joined us as associate members.
Representing some of the largest agri-food corporations in Canada, our
member companies process over 90 per cent of Canada's chicken, turkey, eggs
and hatching eggs. This economic activity generates over $5 billion in
annual retail sales. To accomplish this, our members have invested over $1.5
billion in plants and equipment and directly employ more than 19,000
Our industry has identified food safety as our strategic priority.
Canadian poultry and egg processors have long been supporters of modernizing
food safety legislation and regulations as a key element in the development
of a national, coordinated and integrated approach to food safety. We
applaud the government initiative to update and modernize legislation,
regulations, manuals of procedures, guidelines and policy decisions that
affect our sectors.
We understand that Bill S-11 is designed to, among other things, create a
single act to replace the various inspection acts; harmonize enforcement
powers; establish new authorities to make regulations in areas identified as
critical to food safety and competitiveness; introduce new offences related
to tampering and hoaxes; and enhance controls over imported foods.
Our council supports the reduction of inconsistencies between and within
various segments of the Canadian food sector. This legislation will allow
for the respective roles and responsibilities of manufacturers,
importers/distributors and CFIA in ensuring safe food for Canadians to be
more clearly defined. We endorse a risk-based approach to regulations and
inspection, and we understand that is one of the guiding principles behind
this legislation. We are certainly looking forward to draft regulations
stemming from this legislation that respect the outcome-based recognition of
systems of manufacturing, preparation, storage, packing, et cetera.
Our members recognize that the assurance of food safety is primarily the
responsibility of industry. We believe that this act will allow for a shift
in thinking by inspectors toward verification of the effectiveness of the
regulated party's controls in providing safe and compliant food.
We very much appreciate the inclusion of the prohibition on tampering, on
making threats regarding food commodities and on making hoaxes related to
food commodities in this act. Our industry has had to deal with malicious
tampering threats on a number of occasions over the past years. These are
often, but not always, focused on turkeys for sale at festive seasons at
retail. We have established a superb working relationship with farmers,
retailers, CFIA and the RCMP, but specialized, highly expensive insurance
policies, the establishment of rewards, and in some cases destruction of
product, have proven to be very costly. Our experience to date has been that
we have never found evidence of tampering, but the threat or the hoax has
been the issue. We certainly applaud the potential for increased fines that
will come as a result of this legislation.
We work very closely with Canadian farmers through Chicken Farmers of
Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and Canadian
Hatching Egg Producers to ensure that the poultry and egg products we
produce are safe and compliant with Canadian regulations.
We are pleased to see enhanced controls over imported foods to ensure
that these products are also safe for Canadian consumers. At the same time,
we appreciate that this act will allow CFIA to acknowledge third-party
standards and certifications in their inspection programs and incorporate
documents into regulations by reference. Reducing regulatory burden for my
members who import as well as produce products from domestic sources, while
maintaining a high level of food safety compliance, is welcome.
We note the prohibitions on sending or conveying a food commodity from
one province to another contrary to the regulations or without a licence or
registration. However, these legislative changes still do not address the
potential problem of a two-tier meat inspection system in Canada. There
cannot be a lesser standard for food safety or, for that matter, animal
welfare or animal health, between small operators and large operators or
between provincially inspected or federally registered plants.
We have received concerns from members about the current drafting of
clause 24(2)(e) of the proposed legislation that would appear to
allow any inspector in any facility to commandeer any computer at any time
to access any content that is either contained in the individual computer
hard drive or on the company computer system. Although the desire to assure
a means of access to compliance-related data is understood and accepted, the
current unlimited provision appears to be more extensive than necessary or
justified. At a minimum, an inspector should be required to declare
reasonable grounds to access individual computers or company computer
systems that may contain primarily personal and/or personnel information as
well as other information that is unrelated to compliance verification.
We welcome the creation of an appeal mechanism, particularly as a
mechanism for reducing inconsistency in inspector expectations and
Finally, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council wishes to work in
cooperation with government officials on the development of Bill S-11
implementing regulations, guidelines, manuals of procedures and policies.
I wish to thank the committee for the opportunity to present our
industry's perspectives on this important legislation.
Senator Plett: Gentlemen, thank you for being here. You have
answered many questions already. I am so pleased to be the sponsor of this
bill, and I know that, as you suggested, you welcome it. We have heard from
the minister that this is kind of the third kick at the can here. Both of
our governments have made efforts to do this. Hopefully, the third time will
be charmed and we will be able to get it through.
I want to talk a little more about the import-export that you referred
to. I know that both of your industries — the Canadian food and agri-food
sector — are largely export focused. Clearly, our government has been
working on free trade. This legislation, I believe, will give the minister
and CFIA possibly some more power with certification.
I would like you to talk a little more about that. We have heard that
CFIA does not have the authority to issue export certificates. We have also
heard that this is a critical issue for the market access. I know that your
industries have some access to exporting food commodities. How important is
the expanded export certification in this bill to other Canadian exporters,
Mr. Laws: From the meat standpoint, we do rely on the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency to issue and sign the export certificate, so perhaps
some other sectors that are covered under this will benefit from further
powers in that regard.
However, we are looking forward to the agency further developing the
electronic export certificates that we have been hoping for for quite a long
time. Currently, the document is actually a paper document with multiple
copies that they have to write through and they have to go and chase people
to sign these things. If it were electronically-based, it would be faster.
Countries like New Zealand already have that capability, and I believe
Australia as well. It is great that Canada is moving in that direction
because that is critical to us, and to have timely issue of the export
certificates as well.
We have been asking for changes such as in other countries that only have
to have an authorized or certified government representative to sign the
export certificates. Currently in Canada it has to be a veterinarian. That
provides challenges in facilities that only process meats and do not
slaughter animals, because there is not a veterinarian at those facilities;
they have to take the certificate to some other office and have it signed by
a veterinarian. Most other countries have the inspector sign off on those,
so we are looking forward to that rule changing here in Canada as well.
Mr. Horel: First, the industry that most of my members work in is
supply managed. One of the things that binds my chicken, turkey, hatching
egg and egg members together is that they buy their most significant raw
material from supply-managed Canadian farmers. That limits the amount of
export we do, but does not mean that it is not important.
We are doing more export than before. We are doing more export of
higher-valued products than we were before. Within my group I have a number
of hatchery members who are primary breeders, which means that by far the
bulk of their interest is in the export world. It is important to our
membership as well.
I agree with what Mr. Laws has said. We are looking forward to getting to
e-certification, and anything that will streamline those exports will be
good for our members as well.
Senator Plett: Before my friends opposite ask the question, we
know that this will not affect supply management; that is not what this is
about, so we need to be clear on that.
On the import side of it, in the case of beef and pork, the market is
wide open, and in the case of poultry, the tariff regime still allows some
product to come in, such as spent fowl. Our friends in the other place
presented a recommendation in regard to the listeriosis outbreak and it was
to eliminate the pre-clearance of meat products moving into Canada from the
United States. Of course, when we talk about exports, we want it to be as
free as possible. When we talk about imports, we want to ensure that we are
all kept safe on this side. Could you explain the impact this has? This is a
recommendation that was made and our government did implement it. Could you
explain a little bit about what impact this has had on your industry?
Mr. Laws: That was more elimination of notification of who was
going to be inspected at the border.
Senator Plett: Explain that, please.
Mr. Laws: Both Canada and the United States re-inspect
approximately 10 per cent of the meat that crosses the border both ways.
With respect to U.S. meat coming up to Canada, they would be advised a day
or two prior whether or not that load would be chosen for re-inspection, but
the Americans do not do that, and rightly so; you should not do that. CFIA
did eliminate that pre-notification of selection for inspection.
Having said that, under the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation
Council and Beyond the Border initiative, when a truck gets to the border,
the back is opened and you see meat in a box. It is not a very good use of
time and effort. We believe that a product that has already been inspected
by the CFIA in a plant, where they are all the time, and the truck is sealed
at that plant and it moves across the border, should not have to be
Senator Plett: It is customs-checked if the seal is on.
Mr. Laws: Absolutely. We agree that all trucks should be inspected
for contraband of whatever source, but why is it that just meat is
re-inspected at the border? It does not make sense. The Americans re-verify
every Canadian load that crosses. They open the back of the truck and charge
Canadian industry about $100 just for doing that. If the load is selected
for re-sampling for micro work, it can cost upwards of $400 that the
Canadian company ends up paying, whereas meat coming up from the United
States can go directly to a registered facility for re-sampling. There is
quite a difference. We are working hard on that and we hope that happens as
Mr. Horel: I would add two things. First, with regard to imports
within our poultry sectors, because of supply management or despite supply
management, we are actually net importers of poultry products, regardless of
fowl. Set fowl aside; as Senator Plett mentioned, fowl comes and goes
freely, but we are net importers of chicken, eggs and hatching eggs; there
is no question. Imports are very important to us, and it is important that
the product meet the same standards as the Canadian domestic product, which
is 90-some per cent of our market.
Then to build on what Mr. Laws said, it certainly seems that in the year
2012 it is a much more effective use of resources to make sure we understand
the system being used by the plant or the country that is producing, and to
make sure we know what is coming, to make sure we understand that rather
than to open trucks and look inside to see what it looks like from the
outside. There is not much value in that.
Senator Peterson: Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. We are
generally supportive of this legislation; however, as in all new bills, the
devil is always in the details.
In an online letter signed by both of you gentlemen, when you referenced
Budget 2012, you noted that:
Although Canadian processors must wait months for the approval of
meat and fish packaging materials, innovative new materials . . . can be
used in the meantime for imported products originating from countries
such as the United States or Europe.
Could you elaborate on what "innovative packaging'' is, and do you feel
that this puts Canadian processors at a disadvantage?
Mr. Laws: I would be happy to do that. For instance, a couple of
years ago, one of our members, a manufacturer of canned meat, wanted to use
a can made in Denmark. It was lighter, had a quick-release top, and was
quite a bit cheaper than the can they were currently using. However, they
had to get it registered under the current rules of the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency. Under the Meat Inspection Act, it had to be registered.
It was taking months and months. In the meantime, American meat was being
sold across Canada, right here in Ottawa, in every retail store, in that new
Danish can that we were not allowed to use.
We argue that that makes absolutely no sense, and I think it would not
take anyone more than 10 seconds to agree that it does not make any sense.
We argued that imported products should not be exempt from that requirement,
and the agency argued otherwise. We did not go any further than that, but we
were promised that it would be reviewed.
It has been about two years. It now is in the April 7 Canada Gazette
Part I changes to the Meat Inspection Regulations that they will be amending
that clause, which was section 92 of the Meat Inspection Regulations, to
remove that requirement.
This was not only unfair because we were competing against imports; other
Canadian products, such as dairy products and bakery, did not have to get
their packaging pre-approved. Again, this is an example of how the meat
sector is treated so differently. In the year 2012, as Mr. Horel said, it
does not make any sense that it should be any different. It particularly
does not make any sense when it was already on the shelves. We are being
outcompeted because people would rather use that quick release than the one
on the bottom that you have to break off and spin it, and for sure it
breaks, and you cannot get the can open.
Senator Peterson: At the present time, it is my understanding that
American firms do all their packaging; they manufacture it in Canada to meet
the requirements that are set out. In this new legislation, they will no
longer have to do that. They will go back to the United States, manufacture
it there, and move it back into Canada at a much lower rate. Are you aware
of any of those issues?
Mr. Horel: Certainly in the poultry business I am not aware of
those issues. There are certainly some multinational companies that have
business on both sides of the border, but I am not aware of American
companies that have set up Canadian operations in the poultry business in
order to produce products in Canada.
Senator Peterson: The government says they will also repeal
regulations related to container standards to enable industry to take
advantage of new packaging formats and technologies, while removing
unnecessary barriers for the importation of new products from international
markets. What is that saying?
Mr. Laws: That is related to standard container sizes. In the Meat
Inspection Regulations, in one of the annexes at the back, there are a few
meat products for which it says — for instance, for bacon — "thou shalt
only sell bacon in Canada under the following sizes.'' That is all that that
relates to. However, any imported product would still have to meet all the
other requirements, such as bilingual labelling, a nutrition facts panel, et
That was purely related to the size. That does not mean that Canadian
companies would have to change their sizes. They could keep using Canadian
standard sizes on that one.
The only thing that concerns some of our members — and probably rightly
so — is that we were not given much advance notice of when that was going to
happen, but I guess it came in the budget bill.
Senator Nolin: Mr. Laws, I was going to ask you a specific
question about that line in the budget plan appendix. Your answer left me
even more confused. You have no objection to your businesses, the members of
your organization, being able to continue to produce in a size they already
produce, while the international competition is in other sizes? You have no
objection to that?
Mr. Laws: No, that is not it. They are going to remove the
requests that we produce only a specific product in a certain quantity. All
the Canadian and international processors can use any size they want.
Senator Nolin: Let us take a can that contains meat. What size is
that can in Canada? I assume that it is in millilitres and not ounces.
Mr. Laws: Yes, and that will not be removed. The quantities will
still need to be there in Canada. For instance, all the other acts must be
Senator Nolin: What makes you say that in reading the text? How
can you come to that conclusion? Do not forget that it clearly says, "while
removing an unnecessary barrier for the importation of new products from
international markets.'' That does not concern you?
Mr. Laws: We put the question to the agency.
Senator Nolin: What was their response to you? Write to us?
Mr. Laws: They told us that only that section would be removed.
The standard sizes, that is all. Not the other bilingual labelling needs,
and so on.
Senator Nolin: You said that there will be meat products — we will
ask other witnesses about the other types of food products processed in
Canada — that will be in millilitre sizes and that will be offered to
consumers, for instance, in 280-odd millilitre sizes, and cans of the same
product from the United States, the largest importer to Canada, will be in
Mr. Laws: We do not think that will be the case. Since meat is a
solid, it will be in grams because it is not really a liquid. At the same
time, we have not yet seen the proposed regulated changes.
Senator Nolin: Did you ask to be consulted before the regulation
comes into effect?
Mr. Laws: Yes, we sent a letter to the government recently,
indicating that we would like these changes to be made as late as possible
to give the industry a chance to adapt to the changes.
Senator Nolin: That is all you asked of them? You did not request
an impact study?
Mr. Laws: In the letter, we also said that we understand that all
the other regulations in place will remain the same, like the need for
bilingual labelling and all the other Canadian labelling requirements.
Senator Nolin: If I may, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask one last
question along the same lines.
The Chair: Still along the same lines as the questions asked by
Senator Nolin: When you wrote to the agency, you did not think it
was important that they be convinced of the economic impact on your
industry? You told them that you trusted them even though no one at the
agency was concerned about the economic impact on you. If there was no
impact, even better, but if there was, who will tell them before the
regulations come into effect?
Mr. Laws: We also want to see what they are going to write in the
Canada Gazette, Part I, because there is a requirement to explain what
they are doing, why they are doing it and what the economic impact is. They
must explain it. So, there will be another opportunity in the process to
Senator Robichaud: I would also like to ask a supplementary
question, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Senator Peterson, Senator Robichaud has a
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Laws, in your presentation, you said:
We hope that incorporation by reference will be applied through a [.
. .] consultation process [. . .] of the document, as well as for its
future amendments, since clause 55 of the bill states: "For greater
certainty, a document that is incorporated by reference in a regulation
made under subsection 51(1) is not required to be transmitted for
registration or published in the Canada Gazette by reason only
that it is incorporated by reference.''
Does that not sort of contradict what you just said to Senator Nolin?
Mr. Laws: No because, in fact, the changes that the senator
mentioned are now in a regulation. They are not in a document that is
currently incorporated by reference. Since it is effectively a regulation,
it must go through the Gazette process. In this case, we are going to
have more information.
Senator Nolin: It will be late.
Senator Robichaud: You said that there might be the risk of a
vicious cycle, right?
Mr. Laws: That is correct.
Senator Peterson: As you can see, we are getting to where the
devil is in the detail. I am sure you both agree that consultation with
industry, in particular, is good when defining public policy. Can you
explain the consultation process to me? Were you consulted? Did you discuss
with government this proposed legislation? Are you aware of an economic
impact analysis being done in these matters? Where were you on that?
Mr. Laws: Are you referring specifically to the removal of the
standardized container sizes?
Senator Peterson: I am talking about the role industry played in
this new legislation with the government. Did you have any consultation with
them? Did they call and ask what you think of this?
Mr. Laws: Bill S-11?
Senator Peterson: Yes.
Mr. Laws: Yes, and I am sure my colleague Mr. Horel will comment
as well. We were consulted, prior to this, in general form. We did not have
the details of the actual bill, but, yes, we have known it has been the
intent of government for many years to get all of these different inspection
regimes together under one act. The agency itself is really not that old,
but they know it really needs to put food as food. It should all be under
Mr. Horel: Our two organizations, along with a number of other
food industry associations in Canada, belong to something called the
Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition, another acronym.
The coalition certainly had, as Mr. Laws says, consultation in general
form because we could not see the detail, of course. We were not surprised,
in general terms, by Bill S-11.
Senator Peterson: You intend to play an ongoing role as this
Mr. Horel: Absolutely. As we have both said in our presentations,
we are generally supportive, but I would agree with you, Senator Peterson,
that the devil is in the detail as well. There is no question about that.
The regulations and all of the enabling stuff that comes out of this is
really where we need to be consulted.
Senator Peterson: In the safety aspect, which is very important to
everyone, particularly you people, the CFIA, the budget is being cut by 10
per cent. Will that have an impact on front-line inspectors, in your
Mr. Horel: We were granted an audience with the President of CFIA
less than two weeks after the budget came down, which I thought was
terrific, actually. The entire reason for the discussion with him and his
key staff was: What are the budget implications for CFIA? He went into what
it would mean for our industries, but our question was exactly your
question, and his response was "no change in front-line inspection.''
Senator Eaton: Did the outbreak of listeriosis and mad cow disease
hurt our global brand for food safety?
Mr. Laws: Absolutely. On the beef side, for instance, we are still
trying to fully recover all the markets nine years later. In Japan, for
instance, we are not quite there; Korea, we are trying to get back.
Senator Eaton: That brings me to the next question, which you have
segued right into. As we are going into free trade agreements with Japan,
Korea and the EU, do they have the same high standards of safety that we are
demanding of you, as Canadians demand from you guys?
Mr. Laws: Many of those countries in those areas absolutely do,
but the CFIA does negotiate protocols between each and every country when it
comes, in particular, to animal health and the movement of plants and
animals. That is very important for disease control. On the food side as
well, absolutely there are auditors that go and visit other countries.
Senator Eaton: Will you have a seat at the table? Will you be
Mr. Laws: We are often consulted, but when the actual negotiations
are going on, we are not in the actual room. The government does a pretty
good job of consulting with us along the way.
Senator Eaton: That is good.
Lastly, you brought up something, Mr. Laws, which has been one of my
interests. You saw that, with a private member's bill now, we have lifted
the interprovincial trade barriers for wine. When you talk about meat
inspection, are interprovincial barriers political? Is it a lack of
resources? What are your biggest hurdles?
Mr. Laws: Again, it is in the actual Meat Inspection Act that it
is a legislative situation.
Senator Eaton: So it is a political thing?
Mr. Laws: Yes, but if you were to come and tour a federally
inspected meat facility and then go to inspect some provincially inspected
facilities, you would see quite a difference. There is quite a difference in
the level of inspection and the level of complexity in some of those
different provincial inspected plants. To remove that barrier, we think the
solution is quite simple: Have everyone who produces meat in Canada register
under this new act and be inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Senator Eaton: Thank you very much.
Senator Robichaud: To follow up on Senator Eaton's question, when
you spoke about a single system, you said that there are many differences
between the provincial and federal systems. Would it be very costly for the
provinces' factories to adapt to the national system?
Mr. Laws: Actually, the Canadian agency has a project with close
to 17 different provincial establishments across Canada that want to be
inspected at the federal level. They have assessed the average cost for each
of those establishments, and that information is on the agency's website.
Yes, it will cost money, but at the same time, those that are operating in
the system now have already invested a lot of money to be there and,
frankly, we cannot really put the health of Canadians and the cost to them
in the balance.
Senator Robichaud: I fully agree with you, but if there are two
systems, it is likely that there are reasons somewhere that would prevent us
from having just one system.
My question has to do with clause 51(1), which states:
51. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations for
carrying the purposes and provisions of this Act into effect, including
[. . .]
(w) exempting, or permitting the Minister to exempt, with
or without conditions, any item to which this Act applies, or a
person or activity in respect of a food commodity, from the
application of this Act or the regulations or a provision of this
Act or the regulations;
What does that mean? We are giving all the powers to the minister,
without limits and without any constraints, because the act allows it? Why
do we need that?
Mr. Horel: Frankly, I do not know. It is something that I will
need to go back and review in more detail, and I thank you for pointing it
Mr. Laws: I will answer the same way as my colleague; I will have
to review the information to give you a proper answer to your question about
that clause. It seems that it gives them the authority to do it in the
regulations, but it would be very interesting to know about the details to
understand the intention of that clause.
Senator Robichaud: I am wondering why we would need it. It is
being done without consultation. It is only the minister's willingness that
can be exercised by that clause, is it not? If you can analyze the
information and let us know if we need it, we would appreciate it. Because
if this could be a cause for concern, we could ask for it to be eliminated
Senator Nolin: I would like it to be clear. Did the witness say
"yes''? You are going to write to the committee before we have finished
studying the bill?
Mr. Laws: Yes.
Senator Nolin: Perfect.
The Chair: You can send your letter to the clerk, and we will then
forward it to the individuals concerned at the department.
Mr. Laws: All right.
Senator Rivard: Mr. Laws, in your brief, you mentioned that you do
not understand why the maximum fine was $250,000 previously, when it is now
$5 million. In the past 10 years, the largest fine has been $100,000. Do you
think that this increase of the amount of the maximum fine will have a
fairly deterrent effect so that all the companies, be they retailers or
producers, will pay greater attention to the quality of the products?
Mr. Laws: Even if the Meat Inspection Act is eliminated, the act
that will replace it is very important. The fines are very high. I
understand that it is for those that do something bad clearly on purpose and
this will basically be an act to prevent people from thinking about doing
something on purpose, meaning something that could jeopardize the health of
We are not saying that we are against these high fines, but we want
people to know that the increase is quite significant and that it must be
taken very seriously.
Senator Rivard: I am putting myself in the shoes of the consumer.
We often hear in the media that such and such a manufacturer, producer or
retailer has just decided to remove this or that product from their shelves
or even that the manufacturer is recalling its products or destroying them
at the factory.
In general, is this done after a third-party inspection, so by a
government inspector? Or is it more often the producer itself, after noting
the poor quality or the danger to the health of consumers, who wishes to
remove the product? Do you have any statistics? Without giving details on
the numbers, does this happen more often following an inspection or is it
Mr. Laws: I do not have the details with me, but it is true that
it is the industry itself that voluntarily removes products, but in
communication with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. What the agency does
is very good; when they announce a recall, they state clearly that the
recall is voluntary, and they post photos of the product on their Internet
site, which help consumers recognize the product and determine whether it
would be in their freezer or refrigerator.
Senator Rivard: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Senator Merchant had a supplementary.
Senator Merchant: You spoke about the fines and said that people
will know that they are not to tamper. What does "people'' mean exactly? Is
"people'' companies, persons, individuals? I would imagine that when a
company has to pay a $1 million fine, they have insurance. While their brand
is perhaps tainted, they still have means of dealing with it. When you say
"people,'' do you mean individuals as well would have the same fines?
Mr. Laws: I really meant it is important for all Canadians who are
watching the process of this bill evolve and go through Parliament to
realize that it is a serious bill and it does have serious consequences — a
$5 million fine. I do not know how many actually have insurance for all
events, but we do take this very seriously.
Senator Merchant: It is the same for companies and individuals?
Will the fines be the same?
Mr. Laws: I would have to read that specifically. It talks about
imprisonment for up to two years, so definitely there would be an individual
identified who would be facing the consequences of this, absolutely.
Mr. Horel: I would just add that there are two different parts of
the bill, and the part that Mr. Laws was talking about was different than
the earlier part that I was talking about regarding tampering. When it comes
to tampering, we are big supporters of increasing fines and increasing all
of that. Tampering is a different issue. It may be the same result, but it
is a different issue. On the tampering piece, the bigger the better.
Senator Mahovlich: When we export our meat goods, we are dealing
with 120 or so different countries. Do we accommodate every country? For
example, Israel probably wants kosher meat. Do we have to deal with each
country and what they demand, or do we just say, "Here is what we have and
here is what you get?''
Mr. Laws: We do, but some countries will just say, "No, we take it
exactly as — "
Senator Mahovlich: They are particular?
Mr. Laws: Yes, they are particular.
Senator Mahovlich: Some people like aged beef and we accommodate
Mr. Laws: We do. It is like customers here in Canada. They have
certain requirements and certain products they like to buy, so that is the
way it is. At the same time, though, if some countries have some requirement
that we feel is perhaps not fair, then we have, for instance, challenged
some of them that their particular requirements are actually impeding trade,
so in that way we think that is not fair because they have not provided a
very good reason. The World Trade Organization provides us with a forum to
do just that.
Mr. Horel: It is the same for poultry products that we export.
They are, as Mr. Laws said, customers, and so it does not matter if my
customer is in Saskatoon or in South Africa.
Senator Mahovlich: Or China.
Mr. Horel: Or China. There are some places we are allowed to send
product and some places we are not. That is a different issue. Setting that
aside, my customer is the person I am trying to satisfy, and I will do
whatever I can to satisfy the customer, assuming that there is a return and
it is a good business relationship.
Mr. Laws: I would like to add as well that some parts of animals
are valued much higher in other countries than in Canada. That does help us
to get the most money, and then we can pay more to the farmers for the
animals. It really does help to have foreign markets, whereas in Canada many
parts would have to go to rendering and animal feed.
The Chair: I am looking at the time frame, and we have three
additional senators, starting with Senator Buth. Please be short. If you
want to answer the question in writing following other discussions, please
do it through our clerk.
Senator Buth: Can you comment on traceability in your industry and
whether or not this legislation will have any impact on requirements for
Mr. Laws: The act does actually allow the government to set
regulations for traceability for animals and for food. Yes, it does have
some implications for the future. We agree that for proper tracing we do
want to see very good tracing of live animals back to the farm, for
It is a little more complicated if we were to get too far down the road
in requiring or mandating traceability of a particular product right at
retail. That could add significant costs if the rest of the world did not
yet do it, but we are able to trace very well. We know what meat we sent to
what stores and we can get products back on recall very quickly. However, if
the requirements were very stringent in wanting to know this particular
package came from this particular farm, we could do it if we had to but the
cost would be quite high.
Senator Buth: Do you expect to have consultations then on terms of
the regulations regarding traceability when it comes through?
Mr. Laws: Absolutely, yes.
Senator Mercer: I want to go to the point of traceability that my
colleague has raised. I have been on this committee for nine years so I was
here for the BSE issue. I am assuming that we now only have traceability
from the time the animal is born to the time the animal is slaughtered
because of the complications in your industry, particularly with beef cattle
moving back and forth across the border many times before final slaughter
and processing. Am I right in assuming that and therefore Canadians
understand we have traceability to that point? Am I correct in my
understanding that once the processing starts it is difficult to say what
animal the steak I bought last night at the local store came from, but up to
the point of slaughter we know a lot about that animal?
Mr. Laws: Yes, you are correct.
Senator Nolin: I will ask the witness to answer the committee in
writing because the answer could be very long.
Mr. Horel, you raised the issue of inspectors' powers. This is not the
first time that a committee of the Senate is examining legislation that has
extensive inspection powers. The reason for that is the fact that in the end
we have the safety of consumers to be concerned about.
I would like to have any objections you may have in writing. If they are
influenced by lawyers, do not hesitate to give us the opinions that they
gave you because there is no point for us to adopt a law that will go to
court and be struck down because it is too extensive. I may have the concern
you have, and maybe we were wrong when we adopted other laws, but perhaps
your lawyers have found something that we have not. Please write to us and
we will examine this.
Mr. Horel: I will certainly write to you. I will say briefly that
we have no issue with the goal. There is no issue with the goal of what is
going on. The devil is in the details, as the other senator said.
Senator Plett: I would ask the witnesses, in their response to
Senator Robichaud's question on clause 51, to follow up in letting us know
whether this is a normal power that is already in the existing act. I
believe it is already in the existing act and so I would ask that they
Senator Robichaud: The fact that it is in this bill and that it is
deferred does not mean that it should be. I would like you to comment on
The Chair: Please send us your comments through the clerk. Thank
you very much.
On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, I
want to thank Mr. Laws and Mr. Horel for being on our first panel.
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry welcomes our
second panel of witnesses this morning: Mr. Gordon Harrison, President of
the Canadian National Millers Association; and Rory McAlpine,
Vice-President, Government and Industry Relations, Maple Leaf foods.
Thank you for accepting our invitation to share your comments and vision
on Bill S-11, the proposed safe food for Canadians act.
Rory McAlpine, Vice-President, Government and Industry Relations,
Maple Leaf Foods: Senators, I would like to thank you for your
invitation. It is a privilege to be able to share my comments on Bill S-11
For more than 25 years, agriculture and food sector organizations,
consumer associations and health groups in Canada have worked with Health
Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in efforts to modernize the
Food and Drugs Act and regulations and several food-related laws under the
authority of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but this has been a
halting process. Most stakeholders have been frustrated by failed attempts
to make enabling changes to the legislation that would allow for updated
requirements for all aspects of compositional and nutritional standards,
food safety, food inspection, consumer labelling and requirements for
Following the listeriosis tragedy of 2008, our company, more than most,
knows the importance of the industry-government partnership in continuously
improving food safety and the foundation that good legislation and
regulation plays in this regard.
On May 3, Bill C-38 was tabled wherein the government introduced
amendments to the Food and Drugs Act, and now we have Bill S-11, the
proposed safe food for Canadians act, introducing important changes to
legislation under the responsibility of CFIA. Together these legislative
changes will address many of our concerns because they set the foundation
for a stronger, more risk-based and responsive system of food regulation and
enforcement in Canada.
What will the legislative changes accomplish? If you will permit me, I
will say a few things about what is in Bill C-38 before I comment about Bill
The proposed amendments to the Food and Drugs Act found in Bill C-38
provide the Minister of Health with new authority and administrative tools
to reduce the need for many formal regulatory amendments expediting the
availability of foods, ingredients, additives, processing technologies and
test methods that meet Canada's rigorous science-based, pre-market
evaluation requirements for safety and efficacy. Of particular importance
will be more rapid approval of ingredients and additives that enhance food
safety and science-based dietary health claims, helping Canadians make
healthy food choices. Food innovation in Canada will accelerate, bringing
benefits to both consumers and industry.
It is particularly important to note that the amendments to the FDA will
give the minister new tools, called marketing authorizations and
incorporation by reference. Under the current system, regardless of whether
Health Canada is evaluating a health claim, ingredient or additive, all are
subject to pre-market evaluation to confirm their safety and efficacy, but
final approval is a further 18-to 36-month regulatory process through the
Canada Gazette. Based on our experience, some approvals, including
those that would enhance food safety, have been delayed for many years while
approvals in other countries, such as the United States, have been granted.
This can now be avoided using the new tools.
Bill S-11 will replace and modify the four existing statutes governing
food safety, packaging, labelling and inspection under CFIA's
responsibility. As you know, that is the Fish Inspection Act, Meat
Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, and the food-related
provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The consolidated act
will clarify and strengthen CFIA authorities, allowing the agency to move
more quickly and decisively to prevent food safety risks and respond when
food safety breaches occur. Respective roles and responsibilities of
manufacturers, importers/distributors and the CFIA in ensuring safe food for
Canadians will be more clearly defined.
Importantly, the consolidated act could create powers to enhance controls
over imported foods, which would reinforce the new import licensing regime
that is coming into effect; it would be clarify and enhance inspector
powers; impose tougher penalties for non-compliance, including, as we have
discussed, deceptive practices, tampering and hoaxes; promote consistency of
inspection across all foods, therefore mirroring the U.S. Food Safety
Modernization Act. CFIA could respect third-party standards and
certifications in their inspection programs. For example, the Global Food
Safety Initiative standards, to which all our plants are certified, could
now be recognized by incorporating certain international documents "by
reference,'' such as the Codex guidelines which are set at an international
level. CFIA would have a modern, risk-based tool kit to prevent food safety
problems and promote compliance.
Why is this good for Canadian? Canadians are increasingly conscious of
the relationship between their food choices and personal health and are
paying closer attention to health-related product attributes when purchasing
food products. Scientific understanding of diet-health relationships is
expanding rapidly and food supply chains from farm to fork are responding.
Consumers will be provided with new food choices more quickly, will be
comforted in knowing that industry and the CFIA have better tools to prevent
food safety problems, and can be certain of tough enforcement when food
safety standards are not met. This, along with enhanced controls over
imported foods and inspection consistency, will increase Canadian consumer
confidence in food safety and nutrition information.
Why is this good for Canadian farmers and other participants in food
supply chains? The legislative amendments will reduce the administrative and
regulatory costs of bringing new products to market for food manufacturers
and input suppliers of all sizes in Canada. This will allow for more rapid
innovation and further growth in the food manufacturing sector. Canada will
be a preferred place for investment. As food supply chains become
increasingly global, Canada will have the opportunity to improve the
alignment of food safety and nutritional standards and enforcement practices
with international partners. As the food sector grows, so will the farming
industry, which will need to increase production in order to meet the
demands of companies like ours.
Some may question how we can be sure that the high standards of food
safety and nutrition will be maintained. High standards will be maintained,
in our view, because the scientific risk assessments to ensure the safety of
new and innovative products will not be changed.
If new sources of food contamination are identified, standards such as
maximum residue limits will be changed to ensure food safety. The
fundamental obligations of section 4 of the Food and Drugs Act concerning
food and the commodity acts and regulations under the CFIA will remain in
place. New products will also continue to contain transparent information on
ingredient content and nutrition, and all product claims must continue to be
truthful and not misleading.
In conclusion, as a leading food processor in Canada, and as a company
that cares deeply about food safety and quality, Maple Leaf Foods is pleased
with the government's vision for the food industry in Canada, as reflected
in these legislative changes. We look forward to further consultation with
the CFIA and Health Canada on how the new approval processes will be
structured, how new enabling powers will be exercised through regulation and
how a modern food inspection system across all foods can be designed and
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. McAlpine.
Mr. Harrison, please make your presentation.
Gordon Harrison, President, Canadian National Millers Association:
Thank you very much. What is there left to say? I want to thank you for the
opportunity to appear before this committee. It is a wonderful opportunity,
as is this bill, Bill S-11.
The Canadian National Millers Association is a national industry
association that represents grain millers, millers of wheat, oats and some
other cereal grains. Our industry manufactures ingredients used by the many
food industry subsectors that are regulated and affected by Bill S-11 and
the changes that will bring forward.
Bill S-11 is long-awaited. We have been trying to overhaul our federal
regulatory framework for food since about 1990. Enormous effort has gone
into that over the years on the part of both public and private sectors, so
this is a long-awaited opportunity.
The bill is about more than food safety; it is also about food integrity.
By food integrity, I mean the compositional standards and packaging and
labelling. Mr. McAlpine has mentioned those aspects of it. It is important
to note that we have many compositional standards for foods that reside
within the Food and Drugs Act. They also reside within the many regulations
pursuant to the Canada Agricultural Products Act in particular and
elsewhere. I understand that a brief we prepared earlier in the year has
been circulated prior to the hearing to the members of the committee. That
brief was drafted before either Bill C-38 or Bill S-11 was introduced but
initially drafted in the first half of last year. It sets out what we saw
was an enabling architecture for overhauling the food-related legislation.
We set out our recommendation for two companion bills or pieces of
legislation. Bill S-11 is one of those two. It is almost exactly what we
asked for or recommended as a coalition of food and beverage industries and
It is very well drafted and it is very clear, when you compare it with
other attempts in recent years to modernize legislation. It is also
enabling. We have to emphasize that this bill is enabling. This will allow
for and in fact requires a comprehensive review of the regulations that are
pursuant to the existing act. This will provide for, as Mr. McAlpine alluded
to, the migration of things currently in legislation into regulations and
the migration of things like compositional standards into administrative
lists that are much more easily managed and much more expeditiously. Things
can be done differently, much more quickly. It will be more efficient. The
savings of time to both public and private sectors will be enormous.
I must emphasize that incorporation by reference is a tremendous tool to
be used going forward by industry and government in elaborating the new
regulations. This in fact is in the Consumer Product Safety Act. I am sorry,
I do not have the correct name of the bill that was passed in recent years,
and incorporation by reference is provided for in the amendments to the Food
and Drugs Act that are in Bill C-38. This is very important.
This bill, it is important to also recognize, emphasized that it will
operate in parallel to the Food and Drugs Act. The Food and Drugs Act is
very comprehensive, and there are sections of the Food and Drugs Act
incorporated directly into Bill S-11, not the least of which is the
definition of a food.
The amendments in Bill C-38 are also very enabling. They will allow for a
comprehensive review of the Food and Drugs Act and regulations, also to
migrate things in the regulations into administrative lists and standards
and guidance documents. This will provide greater clarity to industry. It
will modernize many standards that are pertinent and essential to the
regulation of foods.
One major challenge that I must speak about in the context of this bill
and also in the context of how it will work in tandem with an amended Food
and Drugs Act is that in this country, and in the supply chains that
represent the food and beverage sector — by a supply chain I mean farmers,
primary processors, further processors, retailers — it is very important to
distinguish between contaminants of certain kinds and other kinds. It is
important that we are able to distinguish between intelligently managed
things that are deliberately added to foods or are present that are not
healthful or safe, whether they are added intentionally or not.
The other whole category of contaminants that we are interested in with
regard to food safety would be naturally occurring substances that are
unavoidable and unintended — examples are mycotoxins and heavy metals. There
are two realms. This bill does not address that. That particular distinction
is required in the Food and Drugs Act in section 4.
Notwithstanding the tremendous gains we will make thorough the Food and
Drugs Act amendments that are in Bill C-38, we believe we will need to do
more work with CFIA in particular. Ideally, we would have an amendment to
Bill S-11 that will address this issue that I have just described and we
would hope that it would be legislatively possible to have an amendment in
Bill S-11 that would further amend section 4 of the Food and Drugs Act so
that we can complete this work. It is not entirely clear at this time that
Health Canada will be able to do this satisfactorily, so that it aligns with
our major trading partner, the United States. There is very different
language in section 402 of the U.S. act that aligns with the Food and Drugs
Act. At this time, where we have the Food Safety Modernization Act in the
United States, this is a critically important opportunity.
Senator Plett: Mr. McAlpine, I am a senator from Landmark,
Manitoba, which of course is where one of your largest operations in Western
Canada is situated. Being from there, we very much felt your pain in 2008.
Clearly, we felt along with you and we know that in the aftermath of the
listeriosis breakout that your company took full responsibility for
breakdowns that it had had in the system, and we commend you for that.
The report of an independent investigator also showed that there were
some breakdowns in what government had needed to do, and we have
implemented, as a government, all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill
First, as a company that was somewhat in the eye of the storm here, can
you give us your perspective on what has improved as far as food safety is
concerned in Canada since the listeriosis breakout? Has Maple Leaf fully
implemented everything they promised to do, and what further action could be
taken to improve what we are already doing?
Mr. McAlpine: Thank you, senator, for the question. I think I can
say there has been a transformational shift in the approach. Certainly
within our company we have taken complete responsibility and acted on all
the recommendations that were directed at industry in the Weatherill report.
Well beyond that, we recognized the need to significantly increase the
resources, the systems, the testing regimes, and the third-party
certifications and audits. We began by hiring a new Chief Food Safety
Officer, who is an absolute world-class leader in this area. Based on actual
data measurement, we have brought our plant food safety performance up to
levels that are truly world leading, and we publicly shared that. It is well
documented, based on the rigour of the testing we are doing within our
I can sit here today and confidently tell you that there has been a
tremendous step forward, and I think I can say it is true across our
industry. There was a lot of learning from our misfortunes and a lot of new
effort, particularly in updating the listeria policy, which the government
mandates, but beyond that, the sharing of best practices and the development
of a new listeria best practices guidance document by the Canadian Meat
Council and the CPEPC.
If you talk about where do we need to go further, this legislation is
certainly a very important element of that, because what we did recognize
coming through the listeria crisis is that the tool kit and resources that
the government inspectors have had have been insufficient to address some of
these more progressive and emerging challenges, such as listeria
I think this legislation will set the foundation for a lot of better
things in that regard. The resourcing, of course, has been tremendously
increased on the part of government in terms of inspections, laboratories,
and so on.
The one area where I would encourage government to think more about is in
harmonization of approvals between Canada and the United States,
particularly. We have some good steps promised under the Regulatory
Cooperation Council, but we still have a situation where various food safety
interventions, test methods, new food safety antimicrobial ingredients, and
so on, are being approved and used in the United States much sooner than
they are being approved and used in Canada. That is putting Canadians'
health at risk, it is compromising nutritional standards in some cases, and
we would advocate a much greater cross-border harmonization and mutual
recognition of approvals of technologies to ensure we are not being left
Senator Plett: This is a question possibly for both of you,
surrounding feed mills. One of your largest feed mills is in my community,
and I know how diligent they are in making sure they do everything
correctly. However, there are a lot of on-farm feed mills. Possibly you do
not have those; maybe you use your own.
Is there something that could be improved in the regulatory system of the
feed mills, smaller operators? What could be done to possibly improve some
of the issues with this legislation or to improve this legislation? I would
be happy to hear from both of you.
Mr. Harrison: I would comment that separate from this legislative
initiative and the regulatory review that accompanies this is a
comprehensive review of the feed regulations. The feed regulation review has
already begun. The Animal Nutrition Association of Canada has developed
discussion papers and is actively engaged with CFIA to overhaul those
regulations. I do not speak for them, but the concerns of the feed industry
are, oddly enough, about compositional standards and the overly prescriptive
nature of the feed regulations.
In order to manufacture feeds in the modern economy, you have to have
many options, and you have to have many options of formulating feeds so that
you achieve the nutritional characteristics. This is true of a commercial
mill and an on-farm mill.
In the case of on-farm feed milling, typically it uses fewer ingredients
sourced outside of the farm, on to the farm. It is typically simpler, and a
farmer is able to do on-farm feed milling with premixes and other
ingredients that have been prepared in registered facilities that specialize
in providing those ingredients to a farmer.
They are quite different, and the farmer is typically taking advantage,
particularly in Western Canada, of grains produced in his own operation or
in nearby operations that historically have been marketed differently. They
are quite dissimilar, but in the modernization of the feed regulations, both
CFIA and industry know what the opportunities are. That is why it is one of
the first sets of regulations, among the many that CFIA has, to be
Senator Peterson: Mr. McAlpine, I noticed that after the
listeriosis outbreak in 2008, your company made a dedicated effort to
improve the safety by going above and beyond industry standard regulations.
In fact, you are striving towards more of the Global Food Safety Initiative.
In that respect, do you think that the Canadian government should go towards
that same standard, and are we moving towards that now?
Mr. McAlpine: Thank you for the question. There are, of course,
different intergovernmental organizations that set food safety standards and
animal health standards and so on. There are also private sector standards
that are respected globally.
Certainly, as it is now, Canada is very active in those global
intergovernmental organizations that are setting food safety standards, such
as the Codex Alimentarius, and, where relevant, will reflect Codex standards
and guidelines in Canadian regulations, which of course is very positive
because it helps facilitate global trade.
When it comes to international private sector standards, or standards
from ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, or the
standards that are now being recognized under the system known as the Global
Food Safety Initiative, this is an important development because these
private sector-driven, standard-setting bodies generally can move more
quickly and can adapt standards to science and risk more rapidly.
We, as a company, as I mentioned, have certified all our plants, both on
the protein and bakery sides of the business, against the British Retail
Consortium standards, which are part of the GFSI-recognized system of food
safety standards. I do believe that if governments can recognize companies
that are prepared to invest in certification against those standards and
accept the third-party audits that go with that, then that is a big boost to
food safety and it can be a way to relieve government resources from the
need to so rigorously oversee that kind of operation, as compared to another
company, let us say, that is not certified to such a global standard.
This is a very positive development, and this is why having in
legislation the ability to incorporate standards by reference can be
helpful, because it means that if government wants to directly incorporate
into regulatory requirements standards set by Codex or by a GFSI standard,
then they have the legal and administrative mechanism to do that.
Senator Peterson: Minister Ritz has made comparisons between Bill
S-11 and the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act. Under the American act, the
U.S. food and safety department is a part of that, whereas Bill S-11 will
just be CFIA and the Minister of Agriculture. Do you think Health Canada
should be a part of this legislation?
Mr. Harrison: For a time during the drafting of Bill S-11, there
was an initiative and a hope on the part of Health Canada and CFIA to
actually have a single statute brought forward to modernize. This is a very
challenging thing to do because the Food and Drugs Act is criminal law, and
the statutes that are being consolidated in Bill S-11, generally speaking,
are trade and commerce law, so they are quite different.
The Minister of Health and Health Canada will continue to have the
authority over the Food and Drugs Act. The Food and Drugs Act will still
influence how CFIA deals with the private sector and food safety and
inspection, to a certain degree.
It is important to note that CFIA has this basket of laws, some now being
consolidated by this bill, but the CFIA will continue to do the compliance
and enforcement activity for the Food and Drugs Act. I personally do not see
any kind of jurisdictional, authoritative or administrative constraint here.
Under our legislation that has been in place before the Food Safety
Modernization Act, I think it is fair to say that Canada had a legislative
framework in place functioning for many years that already achieved what is
in the Food Safety Modernization Act itself. As the Food Safety
Modernization Act being articulated through rule making, which we call
regulations and which is a compressed process that they are also going
through, what we have already will compare favourably with what will be
developed and implemented under that U.S. law. That law will also operate in
parallel with the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It is a similar
situation, if you will.
Health Canada is working so closely with CFIA in recent years, there is
no question there is an involvement, I would suggest to you. It is not all
in one statute. If it were, I would argue that the Minister of Agriculture
is well positioned with resources to preside over that statute, but that is
not what is occurring. We will continue to have a food and drugs act. I hope
that is helpful.
Senator Peterson: Under the U.S. drug and safety act, there is
very strong whistle-blower protection, Mr. McAlpine. Would you support the
same thing for Canadian employees?
Mr. McAlpine: To clarify, do you mean within government; that is,
allowing government officials?
Senator Peterson: Protection for the employees of your company,
for example, whistle-blower protection.
Mr. McAlpine: Within our company we have a strict set of policies
that encourage any employee with knowledge to come forward or to question.
Certainly in the case of food safety, for example, we empower our employees,
right at the plant level, to literally order the stop to production if they
have any concern about food safety, irrespective of any direction from
From a corporate perspective, absolutely it is important to encourage
employees to be accountable for reporting wrongdoing that may occur. I
really would not be in a position to comment about government employees and
the rules that might apply to them.
Senator Peterson: No, but I was thinking of the government
enhancing that protection for employees. You would be supportive of that as
Mr. McAlpine: Yes.
Senator Peterson: We had the minister here and we talked about Ms.
Weatherill and the recommendations she put forward. One of them is the idea
of an annual or semi-annual audit to ensure that there are sufficient
inspectors and resources to make sure the safety of the act is being carried
out. Would you be supportive of that?
Mr. McAlpine: Yes, I do certainly support the idea of periodic
audits. Just as a company recognizes the value of both internal and external
audits in all of its activities, I would absolutely support that. In the
case of government, obviously the Auditor General has played an important
role. In fact, I believe they are currently doing some evaluation that
relates to food safety and the interface between government and industry on
application of food safety enforcement; absolutely.
Mr. Harrison: I would like to add that Mr. McAlpine alluded to
industry-led standards. To give you an example, in our industry, the mill
that produces wheat flour and other ingredients from wheat could be subject
to as many as 24 third-party independent food safety and food defence
audits, meaning the security of the facility audits, annually. In one mill
in particular, the most senior officer in that mill spends about 40 per cent
of his time working with auditors who are there on behalf of retailers and
further processors such as the baking industry. It has always been the case
that CFIA and, prior to CFIA, Health Canada has performed an audit function.
This is part and parcel of how industry and government need to work on food
safety and integrity in the future, namely, with an audit function on the
part of the federal government. However, also of critical importance is to
recognize industry leadership and all of the training, infrastructure and
services that exist performing that audit function. This is already
integrated within CFIA's approach to work with accredited food safety
Senator Buth: My interest is in traceability. There are two
sections in the act that take a look at traceability. Can you both comment
on traceability within your company and within the industry, and then tell
me what you would like to see or comment on potential regulations that might
be developed in terms of traceability.
Mr. McAlpine: A previous witness commented about the challenges of
traceability from the point of food manufacturing out to retail in that you
have multiple channels. What is absolutely critical, though, is the ability
to ensure traceability from the perspective of recall and having good supply
chain management and records and electronic systems, such as was so vital,
for example, in the case of the listeria crisis, where we were in the mode
of having to recall many different types of products from across the
The point made previously is entirely correct that when it comes to food
safety integrity back to the farm, for example, in the hog industry there is
a well-advanced system now of animal traceability. It is being pushed
further into premise identification and actual real-time information
exchanged, knowing exactly where animals are. Again, it is very important in
the case of a foreign animal disease outbreak that you can identify where
animals are and where they have moved in the recent past. We support that.
The question of making traceability mandatory is very challenging. Again,
we have been part of many consultations that have moved it to the point that
it is. I personally would believe there must be a continued voluntary
approach. Obviously, the integration of data systems and information sharing
is critical. There is a lot happening on this internationally. As food
supply chains integrate globally, your traceability has to interface with
the global systems. These are huge challenges, and I am not sure that making
it mandatory will achieve a good outcome if it is done prematurely.
Senator Buth: Were your traceability systems in place for recall
adequate during the listeriosis outbreak? Have you made any changes to those
Mr. McAlpine: Yes. They were adequate, but could they be better,
for sure. We have made a number of improvements. In fact, as a company, we
are in the process of implementing SAP, the standard, the best-known
informatics platform for a consumer goods packaging company like ours to
much better integrate data collection and information management. Today we
are in a much better place than we were then. We were certainly able to
recall all the products very rapidly, but it took a lot more manpower and a
lot more phone calls, and so on, out across the country than would be
necessary today just by virtue of the systems that we have in place.
Mr. Harrison: In our industry, the grain processing industry,
relatively speaking there are few direct-from-farm deliveries to processing
facilities. There is a bit more in the case of oat processing in Western
Canada, but our supply chain typically is a bulk handling and transportation
system that operates by many farmers delivering into many different primary
grain elevators. This is true both in Eastern and Western Canada. Grain
arriving at a facility operated by one of our members typically is being
supplied by many producers thousands of kilometres away in some cases, and
traceability is very difficult to do. One too is identity preservation.
If there is an absolute requirement for traceability or there is a
particular food composition or safety standard, this has been used for many
However, the other thing that is very important to note is that not only
do we have the origination of grains going to processing facilities from
many, many farms in many growing areas, but once that material reaches a
mill, a mill is not built to segregate individual lots of grain. The
opposite is true. A mill is built to segregate only classes of grain and
classes of grain of different protein levels, for example, for their
functionality. As soon as a lot of grain is deemed to be acceptable for
unload at a mill, by whatever certification or on-site testing, it is
typically immediately blended. Of course, when you go into the milling
process, the ability to trace 10 kilograms, 40 kilograms or 1,000 kilograms
of unprocessed grain is utterly lost. There are other measures that need to
be taken and are being taken in the cereal grain supply chain that will
accomplish food safety.
Fortunately, in our sector, we typically are not dealing with human
pathogens in the commodities, and we have a distinct advantage, so
traceability will need to be approached in a different fashion.
Senator Mahovlich: Maple Leaf Foods has been around since I can
remember, so 50 years or so. How many incidents such as that has Maple Leaf
Foods had prior to 2008?
Mr. McAlpine: Certainly nothing at all of that scale.
Senator Mahovlich: Not one?
Mr. McAlpine: No. We had had certainly events periodically occur.
Frankly, there are always situations that can arise, and there had been
previous recalls, but small, and in no case had a Maple Leaf product been
identified and linked to a human illness or death. Other events may have
occurred. We have also had hoaxes and tampering. We have had events like
that, but nothing at all like what occurred in 2008.
Senator Mahovlich: Strange.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Senator Robichaud: Mr. McAlpine, in your presentation you
mentioned that in Canada, under the current system, regardless of whether
Health Canada is evaluating a health claim, ingredient or additive, all are
subject to pre-market evaluation to confirm their safety and efficacy, and
the final approval is 18 to 36 months later because of the regulatory
process. It takes a while. I would think this period of time would be sort
of a safety shock absorber, would it not, to give time to ensure that things
are — I see Mr. Harrison is nodding in the negative fashion.
Mr. Harrison: I apologize.
Senator Robichaud: That is quite all right. We are here to hear
what you have to say. In your answer to Senator Plett, did I understand
correctly that this shorter process in the States might not protect
Canadians like it should?
Mr. McAlpine: No, I think I am saying the opposite. The key point
I would make is that the scientific risk assessment that Health Canada uses
to determine whether a submission meets regulatory standards and can be
deemed safe for inclusion in a food product or in a plant environment is not
at all affected. It is very rigorous and world class.
The issue here, though, is why are we adding another 18 months or 2 years
onto that process to go through the standard regulatory procedures of the
Canada Gazette, particularly when the submission involves a food safety
advance? We can argue about other types of approvals of additives, let us
say, that are more of a commercial interest and may be of less significance
from a health and safety point of view. For example, Health Canada has to
approve official test methods that are recognized for mandated tests for
food safety in food plants. Right now, there are rapid test methods that are
available to our competitors in the United States that allow them to much
more rapidly identify a pathogen and act on it to mitigate the risk than we
have available for use in Canada. That disconnect, in my view, not only
gives potentially a commercial advantage, but more importantly, it gives
those operators a food safety advantage. Those disconnects are partly
because Canada is a small market and the suppliers of these technologies
generally only pursue an approval in Canada after they have achieved
approval in the United States or larger countries. Any delay is very
unfortunate and negative for the interests of Canadian consumers.
In the case of what I was mentioning to Senator Plett, no, it is an issue
of having harmonized approaches. That is really what I wanted to say. We
should have the ability to recognize as soon as an FDA or a U.S. approval of
the intervention is given in the United States, and we would like to have
the immediate ability to use the same in Canada.
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Harrison, would you like to explain your
Mr. Harrison: I would indeed. Thank you very much.
There are three points. I will make them very quickly. The first is
Canada's pre-market evaluation system for food additives and health claims
is somewhat different, but sometimes there is a claim associated with an
additive. They have already been modernized. Canada's pre-market evaluation
framework for health claims is world class. It has been benchmarked against
that of the United States, Japan and the European Union, and Agriculture and
Agri-food Canada has done much work on this. That work is available to the
committee on request, I am sure.
The food additive pre-market evaluation process and the standards are
also world class. They have been extensively modernized. What is required is
quite clear, if you want to go into the process. It is an expensive process.
It can take years. It can take perhaps as much as $20 million to $30 million
to support an approval or health claim, because of its significance and its
rigour, so that is vitally important.
Going through cabinet committee twice and the Canada Gazette
process is wasteful. It is an improper use of resources once all those
scientific requirements have been met, and it is simply delaying getting to
market things that are important, either from an international competitive
point of view or from a food safety point of view. Eighteen to thirty-six
months is kind. Health Canada and CFIA have both had regulatory amendments
that they wish to make for various purposes that have been delayed by as
much as six years because of the backlog of things that go through the
cabinet committee process.
Finally, there are other ways of meeting our international trade
obligations that are met through the gazette process. Those are done all the
time by other jurisdictions. They notify trading partners under the
agreement, under the WTO. We do not need that process to meet our trade
With respect, I do not believe there is any safeguard or additional
period of sober second thought provided by that process that is meaningful,
helpful and of net benefit to Canadians at the consumer level or the
Senator Robichaud: That then means you are quite comfortable with
whatever processes and audits are made, in this case in the United States,
on the new processes that come forward, because when those are approved,
after a while, people have to look at the method and how it is done. You are
quite satisfied with that, are you?
Mr. Harrison: Let me comment on that. Canada's food regulatory
framework and our agencies responsible for that are very competent, and
there are a number of countries around the world who are likewise competent.
The U.S. is one, the U.K. is another example, as are Australia and New
Zealand. Our systems and our administrative law are very similar, but what
is vitally required is a mutual recognition, meaning the scientists and the
pre-market evaluation systems of the U.K., the United States, Australia and
New Zealand. We need much greater use of mutual recognition. If Canada
invests a lot of money to do that pre-market evaluation, it should be
recognized as having integrity and could be used by other jurisdictions.
Likewise, we need to do the same in Canada. I hope that helps.
Senator Robichaud: I think you mentioned an amendment to the bill
that is before us. Would you provide the committee with the substance of
that amendment so that we could study it and see how it could be
incorporated? Would you supply us with that, please?
Mr. Harrison: Yes, I will do that. I will do in a comparative
fashion with section 4 as it is to be amended under Bill C-38. I will do a
comparative text as it might be further amended to accomplish what I am
talking about. This will serve as input to CFIA as well and to Health
Canada. I would be pleased to do a written submission. Thank you for the
Senator Nolin: Mr. McAlpine, the committee knows about the
modernization of the inspection process that the agency has undertaken. If
someone needs to be convinced of it, we need only look at the Department of
Finance's budgetary plan that indicates that, in the next four years, the
agency will save close to $120 million.
What would your reaction be if these cost reductions took the shape of a
decrease in the number of inspectors?
Mr. McAlpine: We are not in favour of a decrease in the number of
inspectors. We recognize the role of inspectors, but we also value the
importance of an approach that involves the verification of systems.
They have a compliance verification system. We value inspection, but it
must be a modern approach to inspection where we do not necessarily need an
increasing number of inspectors. We need better trained inspectors, better
systems, better data management and capture, such that we can identify food
safety risk trends that are occurring in a plant environment for example. We
need to have an appropriate balance of responsibilities established between
the inspection function and the obligations of the operator of the facility.
We have been very happy to see that in fact there have been more
inspectors hired. More importantly perhaps, there is also better training,
better qualification, better tools and better laboratory facilities being
invested in. That is the future of modern food inspection from our point of
Senator Nolin: And they are going to reduce their costs, despite
Mr. McAlpine: Yes, it is always possible to reduce costs. It is a
question to ask the government but, to my knowledge, they have found ways to
share the administrative costs between, for example, the Department of
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
However, that does not have an impact on the presence in our factories.
Senator Nolin: In Canada we enjoy interprovincial barriers. To
what extent are you concerned by that?
Mr. Harrison: We see few interprovincial barriers in many further
processed food subsectors. It is important that we distinguish between
interprovincially marketed foods and those that are not. This is one of the
reasons the Food and Drugs Act is so important and why for now it will
continue to exist, because it essentially overrides in terms of human health
and safety. It is important to note that this remains in the federal
Interprovincial trade is much more in Mr. McAlpine's domain.
Mr. McAlpine: The comment was made previously by witnesses about
the two-tier meat inspection system. That is a problem. The point is that it
does inhibit interprovincial trade but, more to the point, as was stated, to
have two tiers of food safety in meat consumption is something that I do not
think Canadians deserve. They should have higher expectations.
The issue perhaps more than anything, as a national company operating in
several provinces of Canada, is frankly not so much the notion that there
are actual barriers to the movement of our products. There are not so much.
However, there is tremendous regulatory fragmentation. Whether you talk
about environmental standards, labour law, pension administration or food
safety administration in the case of the meat inspection that I mentioned,
when trying to operate supply chains that are national and achieve cost
efficiency and minimize regulatory compliance burdens, it is very difficult
in this country, particularly as we now compete with a par dollar.
I am going beyond food safety but this is a commercial reality that is
very real for the food industry in Canada.
Senator Peterson: The food industry in the next while will see a
number of changes in the matters of canning, labelling and packaging of
products. The suggestion is this will bring economic benefit to Canada.
There is also the suggestion that now processors will be able to move
outside of the country for economies of scale and ship the excess product
back here at a very much reduced rate. Is this issue real or not?
Mr. McAlpine: Yes, it is real. There is a very real competitive
threat. Imports of processed foods are growing rapidly and plant closures in
Canada are occurring rapidly. One company, a Canadian company, Maple Leaf,
is currently in the phase of investing $575 million over four years to
modernize and scale up our Canadian plants so that we can be competitive.
There is absolutely a phenomenon where plants are closing in Central
Canada, production is shifting south of the border and then imports are
growing. It is a very real commercial situation and one that puts the
industry at long-term risk.
Mr. Harrison: I would quickly add that Mr. McAlpine has alluded to
the complexity of operating a food manufacturing business and supply chain
in this country by virtue of all kinds of regulation outside the purview of
CFIA and Health Canada. All of those influence investment decisions. I would
also comment that Canada has and retains North American product mandated
facilities. It is not that we have lost them all. We have some very good
facilities and those, too, have good economies of scale. Major multinational
corporations that operate globally continue to maintain product mandated
facilities that service the U.S. and Mexico. It is always a threat. You have
to look carefully at the regulatory framework. I can speak from our industry
perspective that we have regulations we deal with on other fronts that are
inconsistent with those in the United States. This is always of concern. We
would like to be better aligned.
Senator Plett: Mr. McAlpine, I think you may have answered the
question but I would like to comment for the record. We have, over the last
number of years, increased by between 600 and 700 net new inspectors. For
the record, again, would you be able to tell us whether you are happy with
the direction that we are going in as far as the inspection process is
concerned and, indeed, we are not cutting back on inspectors, we are
improving what we have already done?
Senator Robichaud: I could answer that for you.
Mr. McAlpine: Certainly we appreciate that investment. It is very
valuable. It has also been important because U.S. expectations for
continuous presence in our plants allows us to meet U.S. requirements and
that is important, not only for food safety but for economic opportunity in
our export situation. We value that very much.
Mr. Harrison: I personally am encouraged by the opportunity for
better clarity and better training in particular. What industry would like
to have is consistency among regional offices of the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency. It goes beyond the continuous presence issue. It is much
more important to have people who are well trained and able to administer
these statutes and regulations consistently across the country.
The Chair: As we conclude, we wish to thank the witnesses. As we
have seen, the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry will
continue to be very persistent in ensuring due process on Bill S-11 will be
given and utmost consideration with fairness and diligence with the
Government of Canada and all stakeholders in order that we have the ultimate
objectives so the act will provide industry clear, consistent,
straightforward inspection and enforcement rules so they can best meet the
responsibility to put safe food on shelves for Canadians across Canada.