The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Department of Health Canada have all signed an arrangement acknowledging that each of the agencies’ food safety systems are comparable to one another. The arrangement was signed at a meeting of the FDA-CFIA Health Canada Joint Committee on Food Safety.
By recognizing each other’s systems, FDA, CFIA, and Health Canada have confidence that they can leverage each other’s science-based regulatory systems. For example, each partner will consider the oversight of the other when prioritizing inspection activities, but the benefits go beyond inspection and admissibility. Systems recognition establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a variety of areas that range from scientific collaboration to outbreak response.
Systems recognition involves reviewing a foreign country’s domestic food safety regulatory system to determine if it has legal authorities and regulatory tools that together provide public health outcomes comparable to those provided by the FDA. Domestic systems provide the baseline level of public health protection that helps assure the safety of exported foods from that country. Systems recognition will help the FDA be more risk-based in planning the scope and frequency of its inspection activities, including foreign facility inspections, import field exams, and import sampling.
The FDA, working with the CFIA and Health Canada, conducted a systems recognition review and assessment using the International Comparability Assessment Tool. The process includes a comprehensive review of key elements of the country’s national food safety control system such as its relevant laws and regulations, inspection programs, response to food-related illness and outbreaks, compliance and enforcement and laboratory support.
Systems recognition is voluntary and not required in order for a country to export foods to the U.S.
Canada is not the only foreign food safety system that the FDA has deemed comparable to itself. New Zealand’s food safety system earned the same acknowledgement in 2012. The FDA is currently working on similar agreements with Australia and the European Commission.