Executive Summary of the Food Expert Advisory Committee Meeting October 25-26, 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 update committee members on key Food Directorate files and,
  • To elicit advice from committee members on specific topics.

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Introduction/Welcoming Remarks

Dr. Paul Paquin and Dr. Keith Mussar, Co-chairs of the Food Expert Advisory Committee (FEAC), welcomed members and observers to the meeting. They commented that the committee had made considerable progress over its first year of existence, in getting a fulsome understanding of, and providing advice on key food scientific and regulatory initiatives under the purview of Health Canada's Food Directorate.  They also reminded participants that the ad hoc committee members that were identified specifically to support advice on Sodium would join the committee on the following  day. As a result, part of the meeting will also be devoted to introduce the new members to Food Directorate processes.

Food Directorate Updates on Current Workplan

Dr. Samuel Godefroy, Director General, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), Health Canada, introduced Nancy Richards, the new Senior Executive Director of the Food Directorate.

Dr. Godefroy thanked members for their time investment and for their continued support to the Food Directorate in providing their insights and expertise on key directorate files. He then gave an overview of the directorate workplan for the current fiscal year, followed by questions and comments from members.

Consultations on Canada's Domestic Policy Review on Low-Level Presence of GMOs in Imported Crops

Cindy Pearson, A/National Manager, Plant Biosafety Office, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Kathryn McKinley, Secretary to the ADM Steering Committee on GMO Trade Issues, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, made the presentation to the Committee.

Low level presence (LLP) has been an issue since the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and is increasingly a source of trade disruptions internationally. Alternative approaches to manage LLP in food products are being assessed, with a focus on maintaining safety while finding ways to minimize trade disruptions.

The three proposed options are the following:

  • Approach 1: Apply an action level for low-level presence for products imported into Canada
  • Approach 2: Apply an interim threshold for low-level presence for products where a data package has been submitted to Canadian authorities
  • Approach 3: Apply appropriate case-by-case thresholds for low-level presence in products imported into Canada

The presentation  was followed by questions and comments from members. The presenters requested that all additional comments from committee members be shared with the team leads in CFIA and AAFC (electronically)by November 25, 2011.

Food Directorate Performance on Openness and Transparency

Dr. Samuel Godefroy gave an update on the 23 actions that the committee had identified previously, including the 11 priority action items. This was followed by questions and comments from members.

Stakeholder Engagement Plan

James Nelson, Public Involvement Officer, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB), Health Canada, made a presentation on the process being followed to develop a Stakeholder Engagement Plan (SEP). This was followed by questions and comments from members.

Upcoming Food Directorate initiatives

Dr. Samuel Godefroy provided members with updates on key upcoming initiatives, where advice from members will be solicited.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Introduction/Welcoming Remarks

Dr. Paquin and Dr. Godefroy thanked the new members for accepting to share their expertise to help Health Canada in its initiatives to support Canadians in reducing dietary sodium.

Dr. Godefroy introduced Dr. William Yan, Director, Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, who is the Food Directorate lead on this file.

Dr. Mussar gave some background information to the new members on procedure, protocol and what is expected of them as ad hoc FEAC members specifically on the Sodium file.

Update on the Sodium File

Dr. William Yan presented an update on progress made by Health Canada's Food Directorate on this file since the June 2011 meeting. He reminded members that the sodium reduction approach is multi-pronged including guidance to industry on sodium reduction in processed foods, education and awareness as well as research.  The focus has been on developing guidance on sodium reduction to the processed food sector. Regarding the education and awareness prong, Health Canada has been working on testing key messages that could be used in the context of a "healthy eating education campaign". With respect to the research prong, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) have gone through two rounds of funding for research projects related to sodium. There are also monitoring and evaluation activities that will take place over the next few years.  The presentation was followed by questions and comments from members.

Guidance to industry on sodium reduction

Dr. William Yan presented the overall approach with a focus on options related to a stakeholder commitment framework on sodium reduction. Participants were divided into groups to discuss:

  • An incentive-based environment for sodium reduction amongst all stakeholders
  • Various options on a process to acknowledge sodium reduction efforts by all stakeholders and in particular efforts to reduce sodium in processed foods.
  • Potential impacts on small business, as a result of sodium reduction efforts.

Health Canada Policy on External Advisory Bodies

Julie Thorpe, Manager, Policy and Analysis, Public Affairs, Communications and Consultations Branch, Health Canada, gave the presentation. This was followed by questions and comments from members.

Closing Comments

Dr. Paquin noted that this was the first meeting of the Food Expert Advisory Committee, encompassing the expanded membership specific to advice on sodium, and thanked all participants for their support and engagement throughout the two day discussions.

Dr. Mussar advised members that they should send in their comments on sodium-related questions at the earliest opportunity

Next Steps and Key Messages

In an effort to maintain the momentum from the fourth meeting, members identified actions and timelines to be carried out by the Food Directorate and the Chair/Associate-Chair

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

The fourth meeting of the Food Expert Advisory Committee took place in Ottawa, Ontario on October 25-26, 2011. On October 26, the FEAC members, including new ad hoc sodium members, received information from the Food Directorate on initiatives related to sodium reduction. Input was specifically sought on an incentive-based environment for sodium reduction amongst all stakeholders.

The Executive of FEAC will receive the record of the committee's discussions on the subject of the Sodium Reduction Commitment Framework and will be asked to validate the summary of these discussions by November 4, 2011.

Next Meeting

Scheduled for January 25-26, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario.

Appendix: List of Attendees

Food Expert 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. Rickey Yada
Dr. George Paterson

Ad hocMembers
Dr. Thérésa Glanville
Mrs. Carol Dombrow
Mrs. Mary Ann Binnie
Mr. Paul Hetherington
Mrs. Phyllis Tanaka

FEAC Presenters
Kathryn McKinley
Cindy Pearson
James Nelson
Julie Thorpe
Dr. William Yan

Food Expert Advisory Committee Secretariat
Dr. Samuel Godefroy (Executive Secretary)
Wendy Atkin
Annie Noël

Facilitation Team
Tony Nash
Marine Armstrong

Government Observers
Nancy Richards
Michael Masotti
Brandon Northwood
Cindy Pearson
Luc Bourbonnière
Kelly Fallak
Randy Meltzer
Sara Krenosky
Charmaine Kuran
Jarett Goodwin
Émilie Bergeron
Konstantinia Arvaniti
Sarah Hatt
Dasha Pelka
Iwona Kuszczak
Sybil Hébert

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