What Health Canada does as a regulator

As a regulator, Health Canada performs many activities to help protect your health and safety. Learn about what we do.

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Evaluating and approving products

Health Canada regulates a wide range of products.

For many products, we review their safety before they can be sold in Canada. We allow them on the market only if rigorous science-based assessments confirm that their benefits outweigh their risks when used properly. They include products like:

  • pesticides
  • food additives
  • infant formulas
  • medical devices
  • drug and health products (including natural health products)
  • novel foods, including genetically modified products

For other types of products, we set strict rules that industry must follow. Products must meet our requirements before they can be sold.

Setting requirements and providing guidance

Health Canada sets rules for a broad range of products sold in Canada. This can include rules for their:

  • use
  • import
  • labelling
  • packaging
  • advertising
  • manufacturing
  • environmental safety

These rules are set out in laws and regulations. We also produce guidance documents, policies and standards to help companies understand the rules and their responsibilities more clearly.

Our requirements go beyond product safety. For example, we also:

  • develop guidelines for drinking water and air pollution
  • develop food and nutrition standards to help protect the safety and quality of food
  • develop measures to manage health risks from chemicals found to be harmful to human health
  • restrict tobacco advertising and ban the use of additives that contribute to making tobacco products attractive

We also communicate regularly with businesses to make sure they know about the rules that apply to their industry.

We also work with other government departments that help enforce the rules we set, such as the:

Working with partners

Health Canada helps to protect your health and safety by actively working with a range of partners, including:

  • industry associations
  • international organizations
  • scientific and research communities
  • national regulators in other countries
  • provincial, territorial and local governments
  • non-government organizations (like patient advocacy, and consumer and user groups)

Our work with these groups includes:

  • communicating product safety information
  • addressing safety issues that affect multiple countries
  • participating in international standard-setting efforts to provide a Canadian perspective
  • getting the best advice on policies and standards through external advisory bodies and external experts
  • supporting other levels of government and non-government regulatory bodies in delivering their mandates

Monitoring safety

For as long as a product is available in Canada, we:

When the science informing our regulations evolves, we review the risks and take steps to manage them. This may include changing the regulations and guidance, as needed.

Enforcing compliance

Communicating about health risks

We use a variety of ways to communicate about health risks as part of our work to engage and inform Canadians.

We also encourage Canadians to report safety incidents to both the manufacturer and Health Canada. This will allow us to follow up and take appropriate action.

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