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U.S. and Canada to Enter a Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are in the process of assessing each other’s food safety systems (excluding meat, poultry and eggs products) and establishing a food safety systems recognition arrangement.  The two agencies plan to finalize and sign the Canada-FDA Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement by Fall 2015.

The arrangement will entail an increased exchange of food safety information between the Canada and the United States with the goal of both countries being able to make more informed risk-based regulatory decisions.  “As the FDA and the CFIA implement their modernized food safety rules and regulations, they will work together to ensure that their systems deliver comparable public health outcomes and reduce unnecessary duplication wherever possible,” CFIA said on its website.

Systems recognition arrangements help FDA to more productively utilize its resources by leveraging the work done by countries with comparable food safety systems.  FDA uses systems recognition determinations as a factor in deciding what imports to sample and what facilities to inspect.

According to FDA, systems recognition is a “high bar to reach.”  In order to be recognized, a country’s food safety system must provide a system of protection similar to that of the U.S., and the country’s food safety authorities must provide similar oversight and monitoring activities of food production.  When a country requests systems recognition, FDA follows a series of steps:

  1. FDA’s first step is to review its existing data regarding the country’s compliance history, such as its volume of trade and the number of import alerts and import refusals for products from the country.
  2. Following the review, FDA meets with the relevant food safety authority of the country.
  3. If after the meeting the country still wishes to pursue systems recognition, the food safety authority will complete FDA’s International Comparability Assessment Tool (ICAT).  ICAT gathers information about all aspects of a country’s food safety system, including its training and inspection methods, its compliance programs, how outbreaks are traced, and more.
  4. Once the ICAT is complete, FDA conducts onsite assessments to ensure a country’s food safety system truly functions as described.

If after this assessment is complete, FDA feels the country’s food safety system offers a similar level of protection, FDA may decide to recognize the system as comparable.

FDA first recognized a foreign country’s food safety system as comparable to the United States in December 2012, when it signed an agreement with New Zealand.  Canada will be the second country to be recognized.

Registrar Corp stays up-to-date on U.S. FDA regulations and will update the industry as the Canada-FDA Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement progresses.   Registrar Corp can assists food facilities in complying with U.S. FDA food safety regulations.  We can help facilities develop or review their HACCP or Food Safety Plan. We can also send a food safety expert trained in U.S. FDA inspections to conduct a mock inspection of a facility.

For questions about U.S. FDA requirements for food and beverages sold in the United States, contact Registrar Corp at +1-757-224-0177 or live help is available 24-hours a day at http://www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.