Food Safety Systems Recognition Agreement between FDA, CFIA, Health Canada

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in union with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Department of Health Canada (DHC) have all signed an agreement acknowledging that each of the agencies’ food safety systems are equivalent to one another. The agreement was signed at a meeting of the FDA-CFIA Health Canada Joint Committee on Food Safety.

By acknowledging each other’s systems, FDA, CFIA, and Health Canada have conviction that they can leverage each other’s science-based regulatory systems. For example, each collaborator will consider the oversight of the other when prioritizing examination activities, but the benefits go beyond scrutiny and admissibility. Systems recognition establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a variety of areas that range from scientific association to outbreak response.

Systems identification involves reviewing a foreign country’s domestic food safety regulatory structure to determine if it has official authorities and regulatory tools that together provide community health outcomes comparable to those provided by the FDA. Domestic systems provide the baseline level of community health safeguard that helps assure the safety of exported foods from that nation. Systems recognition will help the FDA be more risk-based in forecasting 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 procedure includes a comprehensive investigation 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 intentional 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 similar to itself. New Zealand’s food safety system earned the same acknowledgement in 2012. The FDA is currently working on related agreements with Australia and the European Commission.

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