Health Canada: The Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan

Your family's safety. Our government's priority.

From groceries to prescription drugs and children's toys, you want to know that the food, health and consumer products you use every day are safe. The Government of Canada wants the same thing for you and your family.

That's why in December 2007, in response to a growing number of product recalls and concerns about food safety, the Government of Canada launched its Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. The Action Plan promises to strengthen laws and regulations, improve industry oversight, respond more quickly to risks, and provide better product information to Canadians.

Canada's safety system is already one of the best in the world; however, for those businesses that behave irresponsibly, we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to:

  • prevent problems in the first place;
  • target the highest risk products; and
  • respond quickly if problems do happen.

The Action Plan was introduced to help raise the level of food and consumer protection in Canada by modernizing our safety regime. Canadians should expect no less.

Putting the Plan into Action

Through the Action Plan, Canada is moving forward with plans to:

  • require companies to conduct safety tests and provide the Government with the results;
  • increase penalties and fines to punish offending companies;
  • tighten restrictions on the import of potentially unsafe foods, and increase the capacity of government to track and trace the source of contaminated foods;
  • allow the Government to pull unsafe consumer and health products from stores shelves when companies fail to act on legitimate safety concerns;
  • make importers responsible for the safety of goods they bring into Canada; and
  • provide better safety information to consumers and guidance to industries on enhancing safety throughout their supply chains.

Four federal government organizations share overlapping responsibility for putting this Plan into action:

Health Canada's Approach

Health Canada has been very active in putting its activities related to the Plan into action. Some of the things we've been working on include:

  • A commitment to update legislation to protect Canadian families from unsafe food, drug and consumer products, as stated in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. As a first step, we have re-introduced the proposed Canada Consumer Product Safety Act to modernize and strengthen Canada's product safety legislation and provide new ways to quickly and effectively protect the health and safety of Canadians from hazardous consumer products.
  • We are taking a life-cycle approach to regulating health products. Under this approach, we will work closely to engage in systematic and rigorous pre-submission meetings with companies in order to identify safety concerns at an early stage, and to work with industry to develop an approach forward. This approach also incorporates the systematic application of risk management plans and pharmacovigilance planning, under which industry sets out the actions it will take to monitor and mitigate risks of the product over its lifecycle.
  • We have improved border controls, leading to an increasing number of health products being examined and detained while a determination is made whether they are unlicensed, diverted or counterfeit. Those products found to violate the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations were refused entry and in certain cases seized thereby preventing them from reaching the Canadian market.
  • We have developed a consumer safety portal for access to easy-to-understand safety information on food as well as health and consumer products.
  • We are leading or participating in a number of safety education campaigns, including a marketing campaign and a new online tool aimed at promoting the importance of reporting health and safety incidents or injuries related to consumer products.
  • We created a Consumer Information Strategy and Consumer Information Bureau to improve the quantity and quality of information we provide to Canadians about product safety.
  • We are improving the way information about health risks and unsafe products is presented to Canadians, and using a variety of new channels such as Twitter and YouTube to help deliver the information more effectively.
  • We have distributed new information to Canadians on the importance of safe food handling and worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to get this information into the hands of Canadians.

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