U.S., Canada Sign Food Safety Partnership

Caroline Smith DeWaal, the International Food Safety Policy Manager on the International Affairs Staff at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, reported it is only the second arrangement of this type; the first one was signed in December 2012 between FDA and New Zealand's food safety agency.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Canada's food safety agencies have signed a "systems recognition agreement" that delivers what Caroline Smith DeWaal, the International Food Safety Policy Manager on the International Affairs Staff at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, describes as an important new food safety partnership. She explained in a June 2 blog post that it's only the second arrangement of this type; the first one was signed in December 2012 between FDA and New Zealand's food safety agency.

"Systems recognition not only allows FDA to better plan its oversight of high risk foods, it also increases our reliance on regulators in other parts of the world that have demonstrated they provide a similar system of food safety protection. This is one tool that we use to help ensure that consumers have confidence that their food is safe, whether produced in the U.S. or elsewhere," she wrote. "Under this arrangement between FDA and Canadian food safety authorities signed on May 4, 2016, FDA recognizes that Canada operates a national food safety control system with regulatory programs comparable to ours. A major advantage of this arrangement is that it allows FDA to be more risk-based in its oversight of imported food. With systems recognition in place with Canada and New Zealand, FDA can plan more wisely its overall inspection activities, including foreign facility inspections, import field exams, and import sampling. In this reciprocal arrangement, both countries benefit. Systems recognition advances cooperation and confidence building between our two regulatory systems and it paves the way for sharing information related to food safety.

DeWaal also explained that systems recognition is a high bar to reach: "Why? For one, the strength of food safety regulatory systems varies widely around the globe. At FDA, systems recognition is an option for countries with domestic food safety systems that have preventive, risk-based programs in place. We understand that any country can have a food safety incident. For systems recognition to work well, we want to know that the country’s regulatory authorities have the ability to swiftly track down the source of a foodborne illness and take action to stop contaminated food in its tracks –and to follow up to prevent such events from happening again. While systems recognition arrangements are entirely voluntary for the two countries that enter into them, they mark a high degree of trust in participating countries' abilities to both prevent and respond to food-related outbreaks and contamination events. Following a rigorous review, we are confident that Canada has systems in place to accomplish this."

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