Food Expert Advisory Committee - Terms of Reference


Health Canada, through the Food Directorate (FD), is Canada's federal authority responsible for establishing policies, setting standards and providing advice and information on the safety and nutritional value of food available for sale in Canada. The establishment of this advisory committee is part of a series of measures to modernize the food regulatory system so that Departmental decision-making is more open, transparent and accountable to stakeholders and the public.

The Terms of Reference of the Food Expert Advisory Committee (FEAC) adheres to the Health Canada's Policy on External Advisory Bodies, which sets out best practices and standards for the establishment and management of advisory bodies.

In support of Health Canada's mission to help Canadians maintain and improve their health, the Food Directorate is the federal health authority responsible for establishing policies, setting standards and providing advice and information on the safety and nutritional value of food.

The Terms of Reference of the FEAC was endorsed by members and approved on June 5, 2013.

1.0 Mandate

The FEAC will provide the FD with broad expert strategic policy advice on its regulatory and administrative oversight of foods. The FEAC will also provide advice on matters relating to strategic planning, priority-setting and environmental scanning of issues related to food safety, nutritional quality or other issues related to the FD's mandate. The FD always retains decision-making authority and responsibilities.

2.0 Reporting Structure/Governance

The FD is represented by its Director General (DG), who acts as the executive secretary to the advisory body. The FEAC will report directly to the DG of the FD. A FEAC secretariat will be established and housed in the FD.

3.0 Membership

Members of the FEAC are recruited through an open nomination process. This process is designed to ensure requisite expertise, experience and a variety of stakeholder perspectives.

The co-chairs and members are appointed by the executive secretary. In considering who to appoint, the FD will consult with Health Canada staff; consult with other government organizations; consult with external organizations, associations, or experts; and ask the public for suggestions by posting an open call for nominations on the web site.

A limited number of federal employees may be permitted to observe a meeting of the advisory committee. Priority consideration will be given to those officials whose duties are of relevance to the mandate of the advisory body.

3.1 Membership Considerations

The committee is composed of 20 core members. Membership may be periodically adjusted to ensure the appropriate representation of expertise and experience.

The FD will seek a variety of perspectives within the committee to ensure that the advice it receives is comprehensive. Membership of the FEAC should include, but is not limited to, individuals with expertise in the following areas:

  • Research/Academia: fields relevant to the mandate and responsibilities of the FD (e.g., nutritional sciences, food microbiology, chemical safety, toxicology, food science, epidemiology, biostatistics, biotechnology, nanotechnology);
  • Health Professional/Regulatory: food safety regulation and/or compliance and enforcement at the national level, federal/provincial/territorial level, or international level; health professionals (e.g. dieticians)
  • Industry: including the various sectors of the food chain (e.g. producers, processors, distributors, and retailers); and,
  • Patient and Consumer groups: including relevant/target populations (e.g. consumer issues, First Nations and Northern regions, vulnerable populations, health/patient groups and non-governmental organizations with a focus on health).

In appointing members, the FD is committed to diversity and inclusiveness. For example, it may select members from specific population groups or geographic locations, where appropriate.

3.2 Ad hoc Members

The co-chairs or the secretariat may invite ad hoc members to attend particular meetings or join the committee for a defined time period. Ad hoc members follow the same rules and procedures as core members and provide advice on a particular topic or agenda item.

3.3 Affiliations and Interests

To be considered for appointment, potential members of the FEAC are required to complete and return the Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form for Advisory Body Members.

In keeping with the  Privacy Act, a completed Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form is considered confidential. The FD will not make public any information in the form without the member's permission. However, as a condition of membership, members will allow the FD to publish on its Web site a Summary of Expertise, Experience, and Affiliations and Interests, which will be based on the completed declaration form.

In addition to publishing the summary, the FD or the co-chairs may also ask members to make a verbal statement of their relevant affiliations and interests at the beginning of each meeting.

It is incumbent upon the member to update their declaration in writing, should their personal situation change. The FD will review declarations prior to appointment and on an ongoing basis as updates occur.

Members are expected to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner; the use of their positions cannot be reasonably construed to be for their private gain or that of any other person, company, or organization.

3.4 Confidentiality

In order to support their ability to provide well-informed advice, committee members may receive and discuss at meetings information from Health Canada that is confidential in nature. Every person must sign a confidentiality agreement before participating in the committee as a member, invited guest, observer, or resource person. The agreement prohibits the disclosure of any confidential information received through participation in the committee, including information received orally or in writing. The FD will mark information according to the level to which it is protected under the  Government Security Policy.

The co-chairs will ensure that everyone participating in the meeting, telephone discussion, e-mail exchange or in another form of communication has received clear instructions on the confidentiality of the proceedings.

3.5 Security Clearance

All members are required to undergo a security clearance to the level of "reliability status". This may entail taking a member's fingerprints should the RCMP require them. A security clearance is valid for 10 years. The secretariat supplies the paperwork to members.

3.6 Legal Assistance and Indemnification

All members serve on the committee on a volunteer basis. In keeping with the Treasury Board's  Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification and the  Volunteers Policy, members are eligible for the same protection against personal civil liability as federal employees when faced with comparable risks while acting within the mandate of the committee and serving as volunteers.

3.7 Travel and Expenses

Members will be reimbursed for expenses incurred during their work on the committee, such as travel and accommodation, according to the Treasury Board's  Travel Directive and  Hospitality Policy.

3.8 Tenure

Co-chairs and members are appointed by the executive secretary for a two or three-year term to a maximum of six consecutive years. Membership will be reviewed on a regular basis by the co-chairs and the secretariat, who will make recommendations to the executive secretary. The secretariat will endeavour to ensure that appointments of co-chairs and members are scheduled to allow for continuity and systematic rotation of membership.

3.9 Process of Resignation

Members will provide 14 days notice of their intent to resign. The resignation notice must be in writing and be addressed to the executive secretary and to the co-chairs. The letter should state the effective date of resignation.

3.10 Reasons for Termination

A member's failure to act according to the Terms of Reference may give cause for termination. If this is the case, the executive secretary will advise the member in writing, stating the reason for the termination and the effective date.

4.0 Roles and Responsibilities

4.1 Members

Members of an advisory body have a responsibility to Health Canada and, by extension, to Canadians to offer their independent and objective advice. Other responsibilities include:

  1. being available and prepared to participate in meetings;
  2. being available and prepared to attend a public input activity related to the advisory body's mandate, if necessary;
  3. participating in discussions before the advisory body prepares its advice to the FD;
  4. notifying secretariat and the co-chairs of any changes in the status of their affiliations and interests relevant to the mandate; and
  5. making a verbal statement of affiliations and interests at the beginning of a meeting, if asked to by the Directorate or the co-chairs.

4.2 Co-Chairs

Two co-chairs are appointed by the executive secretary. In addition to all the responsibilities of a member, the co-chairs are responsible for the following:

  1. overseeing and chairing meetings;
  2. consulting with the executive secretary to determine when public input is needed and how it will be sought;
  3. deciding if all, or part of, a meeting should be held in camera in consultation with and subject to particular requests from the executive secretary;
  4. providing input to the executive secretary on the selection of members;
  5. consulting with the executive secretary to end the appointment of an advisory body member;
  6. consulting with the executive secretary to determine whether to limit the participation of a member in a meeting, depending on the nature of the person's affiliations or interests;
  7. coordinating the work of the advisory body;
  8. facilitating discussion among members in answering the FD's questions before preparing advice or recommendations for the FD;
  9. ensuring that all members agree with, or note their disagreement with, the advice in the report to the FD; and
  10. preparing and delivering the advice to the FD.

4.3 Secretariat

The secretariat is housed in the Bureau of Business Systems and Operations within the FD. The secretariat liaises between members and the FD and acts as a resource for members. The secretariat provides leadership and strategic advice in the management of the advisory body and works closely with the co-chairs and executive secretary. In addition, the secretariat:

  1. coordinates preparation of the meeting agendas and minutes, records of proceedings and reports, and member biographies, and maintains any information about the advisory body, its mandate, or work that may be posted on the Health Canada Web site;
  2. coordinates the processes for the Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form for Advisory Body Members, Confidentiality Agreement, and security clearance;
  3. coordinates preparation of information for the advisory body and marks it according to the level to which it is protected under the Government Security Policy;
  4. maintains a list of forward agenda items and nominees;
  5. coordinates meeting logistics including requests for travel reimbursement;
  6. helps to prepare the member designated as media spokesperson, as appropriate;
  7. monitors and evaluates the efficiency and effectiveness of the advisory body; and
  8. carries out additional duties as appropriate in support of the advisory body.

4.4 Executive Secretary

The executive secretary is the DG of the Food Directorate who represents the Directorate and makes decisions about the advisory body and its advice. The executive secretary works closely with the co-chairs and secretariat. The executive secretary reports back to the committee at the beginning of each meeting on next steps and, if applicable, the impact of the advice received.

4.5 Media and communications

Discussion of committee work with the media or at other external events where media is present should be done only when the executive secretary has given authorization. The executive secretary, in consultation with the co-chairs, will appoint a member to be the media spokesperson when circumstances warrant this.

All media requests related to the committee's statements or activities will be directed to Health Canada Media Relations who will coordinate responses with the executive secretary and the designated media spokesperson.

5.0 Management and Administration

5.1 Transparency

HPFB's Guidance on Advisory Bodies reflects the Branch's continued commitment to transparency as an operating principle. Transparency of the Food Regulatory Advisory Body is served by:

  • ensuring that meeting schedules are predictable, where possible; and
  • posting committee materials, with confidential and personal information removed, on Health Canada's Web site. These materials include the following:
    • Terms of Reference
    • Membership
    • Summary of Expertise, Experience, and Affiliations and Interests
    • Biographies of members
    • Agenda
    • Minutes and/or records of proceedings and Health Canada's response

5.2 Meeting agendas

Specific questions and issues for advisory body discussions will be determined by the executive secretary in consultation with the co-chairs and with input from the members.

5.3 Meeting notice and invitations

All meetings are held at the call of the executive secretary or secretariat in consultation with the co-chairs. Meeting attendance is by invitation only. The secretariat sends out the invitations to attend a meeting. Members generally receive the agenda and briefing material two weeks in advance and presentations five days before a meeting.

5.4 Frequency, type, and location of meetings

Meetings will be held two times a year in the National Capital Region. Additional meetings and/or teleconferences may be held on a needs basis at the discretion of the executive secretary, in consultation with the co-chairs.

5.5 Observers

The FD, or the co-chairs in consultation with the executive secretary, may allow individuals, organizations, or members of the general public to observe a meeting, or parts of a meeting. Observers do not provide input on agenda items and do not participate in the formulation of advice or recommendations to the FD.

5.6 Invited guests

The FD, or the co-chairs in consultation with the executive secretary, may invite individuals with particular expertise or experience to provide input on a specific topic or agenda item. Invited guests do not participate in the formulation of advice or recommendations to the FD.

5.7 Public input

If the FD decides to seek broad public input on a topic related to the mandate of the committee, the executive secretary will consult with the co-chairs on the process to be used and the organization of the public input activity. If a public forum process is contemplated, it will be guided by the HPFB Guidance on Public Forums.

5.8 Deliberations, decision making and reports

Advice from the committee is in the form of records of proceedings. The committee is encouraged to reach a consensus in providing advice whenever possible. When a consensus is not possible, the meeting record will reflect the diversity of opinions. The committee would not provide recommendations unless a quorum is present. The quorum is determined to be one half of the members, plus one, one of which must be the co-chair.

Records of proceedings highlighting the key discussions and decisions will be prepared by the secretariat and circulated to members for review and final approval by the co-chairs and executive secretary. Final records of proceedings will be posted on Health Canada's Web site.

Minutes and/or records of proceedings will effectively summarize the proceedings to reflect the advice offered. Reports are non-attributable: there will be no references to comments made by individual members or the public.

5.9 Review

The executive secretary and the co-chairs will review the mandate, activities, Terms of Reference, and relevance of Food Expert Advisory Committee annually to ensure that it continues to meet ongoing needs. The FD retains the prerogative to disband the body following such a review. Recommendations for improvement will be considered on an ongoing basis.

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