Food Directorate

The Food Directorate is the federal health authority responsible for assessing health risks and benefits, setting standards, policies and regulations, and providing advice and information regarding the safety and nutritional quality of food. Our authorities are based on:

Government responsibility for food safety and nutrition is shared among federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The Food Directorate works closely with these partners as well as industry and health stakeholders to ensure the Canadian food supply is safe and nutritious.

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What we do

We are committed to making sure Canadians can enjoy a safe and nutritious food supply. We also share information to help Canadians make healthier and safer food choices to maintain good health and prevent chronic and acute food-related illness and disease. To accomplish this goal we:

  • develop and maintain evidence-based food standards, policies, regulations and guidelines
  • conduct scientific, pre-market safety assessments of select food ingredients, food processes and final food products
  • conduct health risk assessments pertaining to the safety of foods to support the management of food safety incidents
  • conduct scientific research, surveillance and monitoring to support risk analysis and standard setting
  • engage with partners, stakeholders and Canadians.

The Food Directorate is also a part of a world-wide food safety and nutrition network that coordinates standards, increases global understanding of food safety risks and nutritional characteristics of foods, and shares early warnings of potential food safety incidents.

Bureaus

The directorate is composed of six bureaus under the strategic leadership and direction of the Director General's Office and the Directorate Management Committee.

Three science-based bureaus implement the directorate's core program in food risk analysis and research, standard setting, and market authorization:

Three horizontal bureaus are responsible for policy, science, and operations integration:

The Bureau of Chemical Safety

The Bureau of Chemical Safety works to ensure that chemicals are not present in foods at levels that could lead to adverse health effects for Canadians. It is responsible for establishing policies, risk assessments, standard setting, research and evaluation of chemicals in Canadian foods.

Areas of expertise include:

The Bureau comprises four divisions: Chemical Health Hazard Assessment, Food Research, Regulatory Toxicology Research, and Scientific Services.

The Chemical Health Hazard Assessment Division:

  • establishes regulatory and non-regulatory measures to help ensure the chemical safety of the foods sold in Canada
  • conducts risk assessments of chemical contaminants and natural toxins in food
  • evaluates certain food ingredients, chemicals and materials used in manufacturing food
  • assesses the safety of food additives, food packaging materials and processing aids

The Food Research Division:

  • develops novel analytical methods for research and surveillance purposes
  • supports federal policies, standards and guidance related to the identification, distribution, sources and measurement of potentially hazardous chemicals and allergens in food

The Regulatory Toxicology Research Division:

  • develops tools and undertakes research to characterize adverse effects and potential health risks of chemicals on the digestive, renal, reproductive, endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems, as well as on juvenile development
  • provides scientific data and expert advice to support federal policies, guidelines, standards and regulations to ensure the chemical safety of the Canadian food supply

The Scientific Services Division:

  • provides veterinary and technical services and advice to Health Canada clients on the humane treatment of animals
  • provides technical support, experimental specialized services and designs, and troubleshooting and repair of instrumentation systems

The Bureau of Nutritional Sciences

The Bureau of Nutritional Sciences works to protect Canadians from health risks due to insufficient or excess intake of nutrients.

Areas of expertise include:

The Bureau comprises three divisions: Nutrition Regulations and Standards, Nutrition Premarket Assessment, and Nutrition Research.

The Nutrition Regulations and Standards Division:

  • establishes regulatory and non-regulatory measures to ensure that the food supply supports Canadians' nutritional health and safety
  • provides leadership on three initiatives under Health Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy: eliminating industrial-produced trans fat, reducing sodium in processed foods, and improving nutrition information on food labels

The Nutrition Premarket Assessment Division:

  • conducts nutritional safety and risk assessments of certain food ingredients, processes, and final foods
  • conducts pre-market assessment and provides oversight of market authorization for infant formula, supplemented foods, dietary fibres, and health claims related to foods

The Nutrition Research Division:

  • undertakes research and nutrition studies to learn more about the relationships between diet, metabolism, and disease
  • provides expertise in analytical methods for nutrients, nutritional molecular biology, nutritional metabolism, and nutrition surveys to support the Food Directorate's standard setting and market authorization activities
  • publishes and maintains the national reference food composition database, the Canadian Nutrient File

The Bureau of Microbial Hazards

The Bureau of Microbial Hazards works to minimize public health risks from the consumption of foods contaminated with bacterial, parasitic, viral and prion-disease agents.

Areas of expertise include:

The Bureau comprises two divisions: Microbiology Evaluation and Microbiology Research.

The Microbiology Evaluation Division:

  • assesses microbial contaminants in foods, identifies their risk to human health, and develops standards and policies to minimize the risks, and supports the management of food safety incidents related to the consumption of these products
  • conducts market authorization for novel foods, including genetically modified foods
  • provides advice to consumers to increase their awareness of safe food practices
  • evaluates new microbiological laboratory methods for publication in the Compendium of Analytical Methods

The Microbiology Research Division:

  • provides scientific data and expert scientific advice to support the development of federal policies, guidelines, standards, and regulations to ensure the microbial safety of the Canadian food supply
  • houses four National Reference Service Laboratories and three networks:
    • Listeria Reference Laboratory
    • Botulism Reference Laboratory
    • Food Virology Reference Laboratory
    • Vibrio Reference Laboratory
    • Food and Environmental Virology Network
    • Food and Environmental Parasitology Network
    • Verotoxigenic E. coli Network

The Bureau of Policy, Intergovernmental and International Affairs

The Bureau of Policy Intergovernmental and International Affairs provides leadership and direction on domestic and international policy, and regulatory initiatives for food safety and nutrition.

The Bureau works closely with the other Food Directorate Bureaus, Portfolio partners, and stakeholders to:

  • develop and implement policy and regulatory initiatives
  • prepare amendments  to the Food and Drug Regulations
  • provide leadership on a number of key food policy and regulatory files, including, the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, a key initiative under Health Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy

The Bureau maintains interagency relations and federal alignment through bilateral engagements with:

  • portfolio partners like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • federal partners in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Global Affairs Canada and Industry, Science and Economic Development Canada

The Bureau supports Federal-Provincial-Territorial (F/P/T) relations through its role as the Secretariat for the F/P/T Food Safety Committee, and the management and coordination of the Food Policy Liaison Officers. 

The Bureau of Policy, Intergovernmental and International Affairs:

  • provides leadership and coordination of Food Directorate's presence and policy positions at the world's principal standard setting organization for food, the Codex Alimentarius Commission
  • houses the Office of the Codex Contact Point for Canada, the Head Delegate for Canada at the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and
  • supports Canada's role as the host country for the Codex Committee on Food Labelling
  • works with various bilateral and multilateral fora (e.g. World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, G7/G20) to:
    • improve international regulatory cooperation and collaboration
    • establish work in areas of mutual interest
    • gather insights and intelligence on international regulatory approaches related to food safety and nutrition 

The Bureau of Food Surveillance and Science Integration

The Bureau of Food Surveillance and Science Integration provides data, analysis and expert advice related to biostatistics, bioinformatics. The Bureau also provides food and nutrition surveillance service in support of the Food Directorate's risk analysis, standard setting, and market authorization mandate.

The Bureau collaborates with other Health Portfolio organizations, federal departments (e.g. Statistics Canada), international organizations (e.g. WHO Collaborating Centre on Food Safety, International Organization for Standardization for Whole-Genome Sequencing), academia, and provincial and territorial government agencies on the following three areas of expertise: Biostatistics and Risk Modelling, Bioinformatics High-Capacity Computing, and Food and Nutrition Surveillance.

Biostatistics and Risk Modelling Division:

  • provides statistical expertise including: risk modelling, risk assessment, study design
  • provides statistical analyses in support of surveillance, research, policy and regulatory efforts

Bioinformatics High-Capacity Computing Laboratory:

  • provides guidance, advice and computational services by creating cutting edge programs and mining complex and big databases such as genomic sequencing data

Food and Nutrition Surveillance Group:

  • provides leadership, coordination and planning of national food and nutrition related surveys
  • facilitates the dissemination of results and products
  • participates in the research and development of dietary assessment tools for use in Canada
  • maintains the CANLINE, an electronic platform for chemical and microbial contaminant occurrence data in analyzed food samples

Bureau of Business Systems and Operations

The Bureau of Business Systems and Operations provides leadership, coordination and support for the Food Directorate's commitments to: operational excellence in the design and delivery of the food safety and nutrition program for Canadians; and a safe and healthy work environment for Food Directorate employees.

The Bureau undertakes activities on:

  • Finance and administration
  • Governance and engagement
  • Infrastructure and accommodations
  • Strategic and operational planning
  • Reporting and performance measurement
  • Audits, petitions and evaluations
  • IM/IT/Investment Plan
  • Emergency / Business Continuity Plans
  • Occupational Health and Safety

The Bureau also maintains the Submission Management and Information Unit (SMIU) which provides coordination and administrative support to program Bureaus and serves as the single contact point for pre-market submissions received directly from stakeholders.

For more information

Contact Us

E-mail: food-aliment@hc-sc.gc.ca
Teletypewriter: 1-800-465-7735 (Service Canada)

Bureau of Chemical Safety
Food Directorate
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2202C
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
E-mail : bcs-bipc@hc-sc.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-957-0973
Facsimile: 613-954-4674

Bureau of Microbial Hazards
Food Directorate
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2203B
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K9
E-mail: bmh_bdm@hc-sc.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-957-0880
Facsimile: 613-954-1198

Bureau of Nutritional Sciences
Food Directorate
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2203E
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
E-mail : bns-bsn@hc-sc.gc.ca
Telephone : 613-948-8476
Facsimile : 613-948-8470

Submission Management and Information Unit
Food Directorate
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2203E
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K9
E-mail: smiu-ugdi@hc-sc.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-960-0552
Facsimile: 613-957-1749

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