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Re-regulate or stagnate, warns Canadian food industry

The Canadian food and beverage industries have backed a Canadian government Industry Committee report that warned of rising unemployment, stifled product development and missed trade opportunities unless the country's anachronistic food regulations are reformed.

"Now it falls to the Government to act on these recommendations and create enabling 'smart regulations' so our industry can have the chance to grow in Canada and to compete on the world stage," said Nancy Croitoru, Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) president and chief executive officer.

The FCPC criticised the existing regulations for creating"complex and lengthy product approval procedures, under-staffed and unresponsive regulatory departments, and regulatory voids that slow down innovation, frustrate new product launches, and create a drag on competitiveness, productivity, investment and growth".

Croitoru added:"In the food sector alone, significant advances in food technologies are creating unprecedented opportunities for product innovation that Canada's current regulatory system is ill-prepared to meet — forcing manufacturers to develop, produce and market new products elsewhere — particularly in the much sought after category of health and therapeutic foods. The future is in functional foods with consumers increasingly choosing foods with specific attributes to manage their health. Simply put, our trading competitors are investing heavily to build enabling regulatory systems to commercialise and manufacture these products and Canada isn't."

The FCPC pointed to health claims as an example of Canada's regulatory backwardness. Only five health claims are permitted in Canada, while the US has 18 approved claims and another 12 expected imminently. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was also investing heavily to streamline the product and health claims approval process.

"Clearly we need to get moving on fixing the regulatory system. We know other sectors have similar challenges dealing with regulatory systems that were designed decades ago and no longer afford the responsiveness and flexibility required to allow for innovation within reasonable timelines. We look forward to working with the government to ensure a commitment to address the issues raised in the Industry Committee's excellent report," Croitoru said.

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