ARCHIVED - Executive Summary of the Food Regulatory Advisory Committee Meeting June 1-2, 2011

Objective of the Meeting:

This was the third regular meeting of the Food Regulatory Advisory Committee. The purpose of the session was three-fold:

  • To inform committee members about the work of the Food Directorate and its partners in the food safety system in Canada, including updates on key issues;
  • To inform committee members in the ongoing work of the Food Directorate, in order to optimize their knowledge and expertise for input into decision-making processes; and
  • To elicit advice from committee members on key files.

This report follows the order of the meeting agenda and is a summary of the information presented. The list of attendees is attached as an Appendix.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Introduction/Welcoming Remarks

Dr. Paul Paquin, Chair of the Food Regulatory Advisory Committee (FRAC), welcomed members and observers to the meeting and noted that this meeting would address more specific tasks and issues.

Dr. Keith Mussar, Associate Chair, FRAC, welcomed members and expressed his appreciation for their commitment, and introduced a new FRAC member: Dr. Vijaya Raghavan.

Follow Up from Previous Meetings

Adam Gibson, A/Senior Executive Director, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), Health Canada, provided follow-up information on previous FRAC meetings and foreshadowed the work to come by highlighting the valuable comments submitted by FRAC members on the draft Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan 2011-2015. He also noted that the Food Directorate is looking at how to best engage stakeholders and consult on an ongoing basis.

Food Directorate Updates on Current Workplan

Dr. Samuel Godefroy, Director General, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), Health Canada, summarized the accomplishments of the last fiscal year (2010-2011) and gave an overview of the workplan for the current fiscal year, followed by questions and comments from members.

Sodium Reduction Strategy

The presentation by Dr. William Yan, Director, Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, reported on the progress that Health Canada has made to date in addressing specific recommendations related to dietary Sodium Reduction. The Sodium working group convened by Health Canada a Strategy with a three-pronged approach, and six overarching recommendations. Specific recommendations were made on reducing sodium in the food supply; education and awareness; research; and monitoring and evaluation. In September 2010, Canada's health ministers endorsed the 2016 interim intake goal of 2300 mg per day. Dr. Yan summarized the progress to date towards the development of sodium reduction targets for the Canadian food supply, and the key activities planned up to winter 2012.

The committee had discussions with Health Canada regarding expectations related to its role as an expert advisory group on this issue. The Committee was also informed of steps forward to recruit additional experts to advise Health Canada specifically on Sodium, as per the terms of reference of the Committee.

Managing Trans Fat Levels in Foods in Canada

William Yan, Director, Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, reviewed the Trans Fat Task Force (TFTF) recommendations and noted that the goal is to enable Canadians to meet the trans fat maximum intake limit recommended by WHO: one per cent of total energy intake. Some progress has been made through the voluntary reduction approach, but critical gaps in industry uptake remain. Further reductions maybe needed to meet public health goals.

Dr. Yan outlined the options:

  1. Regulate trans fat content of all food in line with the full recommendations of the TFTF. This would limit trans fat on an input and output basis, affecting the raw ingredients as well as finished food products.
  2. Regulate trans fat content of domestically available vegetable oils and margarines to two per cent of total fat content. This would have the effect of limiting trans fat levels on an input basis, affecting the ingredients available to consumers, Canadian food service establishments and domestically processed foods.
  3. Continue to encourage voluntary reduction efforts and reinstate monitoring of trans fat levels in the Canadian food supply through data gathering, exposure assessment and publication of the findings.
  4. Status quo: Take no further action on trans fat levels in Canada.

The majority of FRAC members agreed with Option 3. FRAC members also recommended that a strong signal be sent to all stakeholders that Health Canada would further consider plans to develop regulatory measures to limit the presence of industrial trans fat in commercial food oils and fat, if the WHO target is not reached by September 2013.

Additional measures were also recommended by FRAC members:

  • Reinstate comprehensive monitoring and reporting of the level of industrial trans fat in commercial food oils and fats and finished products;
  • Focus Health Canada's outreach on those food categories that have not demonstrated a meaningful reduction in trans fat through the voluntary reduction initiative;
  • Education/awareness targeted at consumers, health professionals, long term care institutions, and teachers on the negative health consequences of consuming non-naturally occurring trans fat.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

FRAC Member Assignments on Transparency and Consultation Processes

FRAC members had been asked to provide suggestions and feedback on Food Directorate's transparency and consultation processes in December 2010. Dr. Godefroy said that FD had captured the FRAC recommendations and identified 23 action items. He gave a brief summary of initial actions taken on some of the 23 items. He noted that these were the initial steps in an ongoing process in response to the FRAC recommendations. FRAC members were subsequently asked to rank the remaining recommendations through a process that yielded a priority list of the remaining possible actions.

Labelling of Unpasteurized Juice and Cider Products

Dr. Jeff Farber, Director, Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Food Directorate, Health Canada, presented some background information on the bacterial hazards associated with the consumption of unpasteurized fruit juice and cider products for specific subsets of the population. He also summarized Health Canada's evaluation of its 2000 policy on this issue and the resulting recommendation that stronger regulatory action be considered for managing the health risks posed by with these products for the most vulnerable groups.(e.g.: children, immune compromised individuals, etc…)

He asked that the FRAC provide input in two areas:

  • Discuss ways to improve consumers' understanding of the potential health risks of consuming unpasteurized juice and cider.
  • Consider the need for mandatory labelling of these products as "unpasteurized," along with a precautionary statement, to enable Canadians to make informed decisions about their health at the time of purchase.

FRAC members discussed and submitted the following recommendations with respect to the labelling of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider:

  • Not to implement mandatory labelling.
  • That the CFIA Code of Practice for the Production of Unpasteurized Apple and Other Fruit Juice/Cider in Canada be updated to reflect current risk management practices consistent with the national on-farm food safety program and to meet the standard now in place for all other on-farm food production in Canada.
  • That CFIA and other provincial enforcement authorities enforce the adoption of the Code of Practice for the Production of Unpasteurized Apple and Other Fruit Juice/Cider in Canada through site visits.
  • That the Health Canada information pamphlet be updated to confirm that it is comprehensive, including information regarding the consumption of unpasteurized juice and ciders by Canadians who may be at higher risk (immune compromised, children, etc.)
  • That the Health Canada disseminate the information pamphlet to physicians and health care professionals and post on the Health Canada website.
  • That the information pamphlet specifically highlight the risk of consumption of unpasteurized juice and cider by Canadians who may be at higher risk.
  • That efforts be devoted to educate unpasteurized juice producers about the risks of their product for people with compromised immune systems or for special populations at risk.
  • That Health Canada implement seasonal public education initiatives (e.g. at cider time).

Next Steps and Key Messages

In an effort to maintain the momentum from the third meeting, members identified actions and timelines to be carried out by the secretariat and chairs.

Members also agreed on key outcomes of the meetings as follows:

  • The Committee was informed of the progress that Health Canada has made to date in addressing specific recommendations related to the Sodium Reduction Strategy. The committee had discussions with Health Canada regarding expectations related to its role as an expert advisory group on this issue. The Committee was also informed of steps forward to recruit additional experts to advise Health Canada specifically on Sodium, as per the terms of reference of the Committee.
  • The Committee discussed Canadians' exposure to trans-fatty acids and current efforts towards reducing trans fat in the Canadian food supply. The Committee discussed regulatory and non-regulatory options to continue reduction efforts of trans fat in the food supply.
  • The Committee discussed risk mitigation strategies related to the consumption of unpasteurized juice and cider products, particularly for vulnerable groups (young children, immune compromised). The committee discussed options for labelling of these products, as a risk management tool.
  • The Committee received the final pre-publication version of Health Canada's Strategic Plan for the "Food & Nutrition Program" related to the period of 2011-2015. The final version of the strategic plan incorporated input received from the committee at the September and December 2010 meetings.
  • The Committee exchanged views on best practices and priorities to improve the Food Directorate's efforts of openness, transparency and stakeholder engagement.
  • The Committee discussed and agreed with the renaming of the committee as the Food Expert Advisory Committee (FEAC), to reflect the scope of its mandate.

Next Meeting

Scheduled for October 25-26, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario.

Closing Comments

Dr. Paquin thanked FRAC members for their contributions and efforts. He remarked on the broad range of expertise and perspectives provided by the group

Dr. Mussar noted that a uniquely Canadian characteristic is the ability to have different views and come to an agreement. Ongoing member engagement will be needed over the coming months to complete the work begun at this meeting. He thanked the facilitation team and the Secretariat and commended the Food Directorate for listening to the feedback offered by members.

Dr. Godefroy thanked FRAC members for their contribution, commitment and hard work, and echoed the acknowledgment of the Secretariat, facilitation team, interpreters and technical team.

Appendix: List of Attendees

Food Regulatory Advisory Committee Members:

  • Dr. Mary Alton Mackey
  • Mr. Herb Barbolet
  • Mr. Josh Brandon
  • Mr. Carl Carter
  • Mr. Albert Chambers
  • Ms. Jackie Crichton
  • Mr. François Décary-Gilardeau
  • Dr. Mansel Griffiths
  • Mr. Nyall Hislop
  • Mr. Mike Horwich
  • Mr. Jim McCarthy
  • Dr. Keith Mussar
  • Dr. Paul Paquin
  • Mrs. Francy Pillo-Blocka
  • Dr. Vijaya Raghavan
  • Dr. Philip Schwab
  • Dr. David Skinner
  • Dr. Rickey Yada

Government Officials

  • Zeshawn Awan
  • Jeff Farber
  • Adam Gibson
  • Samuel Godefroy (Executive Secretary)
  • Dhurata Ikonomi
  • Sara Krenosky
  • Charmaine Kuran
  • Nora Lee
  • Heidi Liepold
  • Korian Soumano
  • Lynn Stewart
  • Wendy Atkin
  • Danielle Brulé
  • Jeff Farber
  • William Yan

Food Regulatory Advisory Committee Secretariat

  • Wendy Atkin
  • Annie Noël
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