Thank you very much.
As mentioned, my name is Lyzette Lamondin.
I want to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to speak about seafood labelling.
More specifically, I appreciate being able to explain how labelling fits into the mandate of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the CFIA, and into our ongoing work in this area.
The CFIA is a risk-based scientific agency. As part of the health portfolio, the CFIA strives to maintain a strong and reliable food safety system.
Food products, whether domestic or imported, must comply with Canada's food safety and labelling laws. This includes a requirement that food be labelled in a way that is truthful and not misleading. It applies to all food, including seafood and fish.
The CFIA is well aware of the growing attention to the fish and seafood labelling issue and the associated risk of food fraud.
We also recognize that this is a global issue and not just a national issue.
Today I would like to discuss three points regarding the issue—how CFIA works to protect Canadians when it comes to fish and seafood, how our new safe food for Canadians regulations support CFIA in this area and how we continue to work to maintain public trust.
First, fish and seafood represent one of several commodities that can be false or misleading. The CFIA monitors for fish mislabelling and substitution as part of regular inspection programs and does conduct laboratory analysis when necessary to detect fish species substitution.
In addition to our own inspection activities, there are a number of third party studies, such as the reports by Oceana Canada, that have examined the issue and contribute to our knowledge base on these issues. I appreciated the presentation by Oceana today to share their perspective, and I appreciated their offer to brief me earlier this week.
Third-party studies are a useful source of information for the CFIA.
Still, it is without question the responsibility of businesses, our regulated parties, to make sure that the labels on their food products are truthful and not misleading, and that all labelling requirements are met.
The CFIA plays a key oversight role, verifying that food labels and advertising materials comply with regulations. The CFIA works to protect Canadians from intentional adulteration, substitution or product misrepresentation in a number of ways. For example, the CFIA has been routinely using DNA bar coding technology for fish species since 2013, so we can check that the fish and seafood product is what it says it is. The CFIA provides tools such as online labelling tools to promote compliance and help businesses themselves verify that their labels meet all the regulatory requirement.
Another key tool is the CFIA fish list, which links the scientific name of a fish or seafood to the common name that the consumer would look for—in other words, what the fish is known as in Canada.
There are many potential causes of food misrepresentation, as well. Without question, there are situations when there is a clear intent to commit a fraudulent act for an economic benefit. This is a criminal act, the enforcement of which involves not just the CFIA but law enforcement agencies.
Misrepresentation can also occur, however, without intent. For example, in some cases we are learning that the mislabelling may occur when our trading partners call a species by one name and we call it by another. This may be compounded by the fact that names must appear in both official languages in Canada. There may also be situations where companies substitute species out of convenience, not recognizing the seriousness of the action they're taking.
I want to make it clear that we take appropriate action in all cases of non-compliance.
Finally as noted in the Oceana Canada report, the international seafood supply chain is highly complex. Once a fish is caught, it can cross many national borders.
Thanks to the safe food for Canadians regulations, which came into force on January 15, 2019, we do have new tools at our disposal, which brings me to the next point.
The safe food for Canadians regulations now require all businesses, including importers, to be licensed, to have traceability and records in place, and to have a preventive control plan. The preventive control plan requirement enables our CFIA inspectors to verify control measures are in place—for example, how the business is ensuring that its labels are truthful and not misleading, and how it monitors and responds to complaints There is also clear accountability for importers to ensure that their product meets Canadian requirements. In essence, they need to know their suppliers and the food they are bringing into the country.
The safe food for Canadians regulations also allow for significant new fines up to $15,000 and prosecution, providing an additional incentive for businesses to comply. Morever, businesses could lose their licence or have it suspended.
These regulations include traceability requirements for all foods, and these requirements are based on the international standards set by Codex Alimentarius. The regulations require businesses to keep records one step forward and one step backward throughout the food chain so that a food can be traced through the supply chain when required.
Traceability requirements are driven by food safety. The primary purpose of the traceability is to be able to rapidly remove a product from the marketplace when that's required. However, they will also facilitate trace-back during investigation of food fraud. This brings me to my last point.
Public confidence in the products that food companies produce and market to Canadians is key to market access and consumer acceptance. Canadian consumers want safe and quality products that are properly labelled.
Budget 2019 provides $24.4 million over five years to the CFIA, starting in 2019-20, and $5.2 million per year ongoing to enhance our capacity to address food fraud.
This funding helps us to better understand and better focus our inspection activities.
These funds will allow us to better understand and target our enforcement activities to areas of food fraud.
We will continue to collaborate with industry, governments and international partners, and to engage Canadians to address this important issue.