Food and beverage products play an important role in the overall health and well-being of Canadians. The increased importance of disease prevention through diet, particularly as rising health care costs and aging populations continue to mount, boosts the demand for innovative food and beverage products with health benefits.
However, Canada’s outdated regulatory system makes it difficult for manufacturers to offer Canadians the same innovative products that are available across Europe, the United States, Australia and around the world. One of the biggest challenges is that it takes much longer to bring a new product to market in Canada than in other modern countries.
For example, it took about a decade to obtain approvals for margarine fortified with plant sterols and a health claim for oat fibre, despite the fact that international science supported these applications and they were readily available years earlier in other modern industrialized countries.
Lacklustre government investment policy and mounting skills shortages are dampening an otherwise glowing outlook for manufacturers over the next 3-5 years, according to the results of the 2012-2013 Management Issues Survey released by Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), BDO Canada and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).
Recent announcements by the Canadian government, including the “Beyond the Border” initiative with the U.S. and the “Red Tape Reduction Committee” recommendations are encouraging. They provide an outline for how to best bring our country’s regulations in line with the rest of the developed world, which will enable more product choices for Canadians, save taxpayers money, help Canadian businesses compete on the global stage and sustain high-quality jobs here in Canada.
FCPC is working closely with the government and supports the Beyond the Border plan.
Evidence of this lost opportunity was validated by The George Morris Centre study, “Food Regulatory Systems: Canada’s Performance in the Global Marketplace” which examined foregone economic activity as confirmed by 12 case studies looking at the issue and its impact to the sector. This study concluded more than $440 Million in foregone output, wages, taxes, salaries and potential employment opportunities between 1998 and 2008 were lost by the food manufacturing industry.
We believe Canada’s system should continue to be based on sound science and the highest standards for food safety. We also believe the goal should be smarter regulation, not less regulation. This will result in many win-win benefits, including:
- Helping Canadians’ meet their evolving needs related to managing to their health including through diet
- Fostering innovation and promoting economic growth and advancing Canada’s place on the global stage
Having a modern regulatory system in-line with international best practices will create efficiencies. Gains will also be made by both manufacturers and government through set timelines for decision-making and through clear and comprehensive guidelines grounded in accountability and sound science.