Sure. Again, I am James Van Loon, director general of the consumer product safety directorate at Health Canada.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would also like to take this opportunity to again thank Ms. Gelfand and her team for their report last year. This report focused on the management of chemicals of concern in consumer products and cosmetics.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to outline some of the progress we have made over the last year in response to those recommendations.
First of all, I will just remind the committee that Health Canada co-administers the Chemicals Management Plan, or CMP, with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Through the CMP, Health Canada systematically reviews chemicals used in Canada to identify and manage chemicals of concern. The CMP is Canada's comprehensive and integrated strategy for identifying and taking action on potentially harmful substances.
When the CMP identifies substances of concern, the department uses the most appropriate legislative or regulatory program to address any risks facing Canadians from these substances. For example, in the cases of BPA in baby bottles and the flame retardant TCEP in foam products for children, both of which are prohibited, the department took actions pursuant to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act—my act.
Health Canada developed a comprehensive management response and action plan to address the recommendations made in the report. We have accomplished many of the actions outlined in that plan.
One of those things is that supporting consumers in making wise choices is an important part of our work.
We acted swiftly to address the recommendations to increase communications to Canadians about chemicals of concern in consumer products and cosmetics.
Health Canada has introduced new and updated social media web content on potential risks of products that you might buy via e-commerce and the hazards that can be associated with counterfeit products, such as batteries.
We have revised our information on how we regulate under the cosmetic regulations under the Food and Drugs Act, and how Health Canada treats marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic” or “fragrance-free” that are used by industry—all of which were recommendations.
The commissioner also recommended that other improvements be made regarding the resolution of cases concerning restricted or prohibited substances and the accuracy of the notifications about cosmetics.
In response, we've implemented a process to automate the identification of cosmetic notifications for ingredients that are on our cosmetics ingredient hot list, which is a list of substances that are prohibited or regulated in cosmetics. Today, substances that are prohibited get an automated screening on the very day the notification is received. We'll have all the hot list substances covered by that in the not-too-distant future.
We've also initiated a review of our processing and follow-up of all those cosmetic notifications to make sure that we have service standards and are monitoring our performance.
Finally, we've updated our cosmetic notification form to include information on the date of first sale in Canada of a cosmetic, which was another recommendation the commissioner made.
Our regulations regarding cosmetics also require companies to disclose all cosmetic ingredients on the label. This makes it easier for consumers to make informed decisions. The one exception to this, as the report pointed out, is that sub-ingredients of fragrances or perfumes do not have to be individually listed. To require this would put Canada out of alignment with every major regulator in the world.
Following a recommendation by the commissioner, though, this year we're carrying out a new kind of compliance and enforcement project in which we're going to look for substances that would be on our hot list and could potentially be hiding under terms such as “fragrance” or “perfume”.
The commissioner recommended that Health Canada also verify the extent of industry compliance with our incident reporting requirements for consumer products, so that's kind of moving off cosmetics and into the consumer products realm. We've initiated a new compliance and enforcement project to assess compliance of industry on that, basically by showing up at a company's place of business, looking at the kinds of complaints they've been getting from consumers, and making our own determinations about whether those should or should not have resulted in incident reports.
The commissioner also recommended that Health Canada should improve the verification of product recalls and the documentation of overall recall effectiveness. In response, Health Canada has updated its recall policy, standard operating procedures, and the documents that are given to our inspectors, i.e. all related materials. The updated recall guide for industry is undergoing final approvals and will soon be posted online.
In conclusion, we have worked hard over the past year to improve our communications to Canadians and to streamline processes so that we can react more quickly to address unsafe products. We have also added new types of inspections to look for potential products containing harmful chemistry.
I thank you for your time and would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.