Bill C-38; were you aware this included changes to food safety laws?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

fruits with letters on them

I am just as guilty as the rest of you; I was not fully aware of all the negative implications of the Bill C-38 which was passed by the Canadian government. I am particularly worried about the changes to food our food safety laws; not only is it harder to trust most products on the shelf, but it is also harder to trust the people who make decisions regarding our safety. One major change was the Health Minister’s appointed power to grant exemptions to food safety requirements without the Parliament’s oversight, nor the need to publish those exemptions.

Why should any one person or group EVER be allowed to grant ANY kind of exemption to our food safety without the requirement to publish them? Previously, any exemption made to food laws did not take effect until it was published in the Parliament’s newspaper, the Canada Gazette (remember the GMO’s being allowed into certain foods thing?). This allowed media and Canadians to be aware of changes, to express their opinions, and request that those modifications be withdrawn as the House of Commons and Senate have the authority to revoke a regulation.

What’s more, prior to Bill C-38, the minister could only grant an exemption if he or she determined that the food in question ‘would not be harmful to the health of the purchaser or consumer’. Considering that a common reason for granting these exemptions is to permit higher levels of agricultural chemicals, veterinary drugs and additives in foods (why these should ever be considered…); this was an important safety for Canadians. Currently, there is no apparent way for Canadian consumers, nor the media to learn about changes being made to our food safety laws. AND, the minister can grant exemptions without having to ensure that the foods will not be harmful (again, why is this being allowed?).

What trumps all is that the minister can allow any food regulation or exemption to incorporate by referencing ‘any document, regardless of its source’. This means that an exemption could be granted using documents published by chemical companies…money under the table? It has become increasingly important to know and trust the source of our foods; opt for fresh local and/or organic foods. It is much easier to be informed on how foods are grown and processed if you can meet the farmer, or even visit his/her nearby operation.

Take the time to chat with the producers at the next Farmer’s market at the University of Ottawa; Thursday November 1st near the University Centre.

~ brigitte - campus recycling coordinator
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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