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Bill C-80: The Failed Food Safety and Inspection Act

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Bill C-80: The Failed Food Safety and Inspection Act

Bill C-80, the proposed new Food Safety and Inspection Act, has been dropped because of public protest--but it hasnâ??t disappeared completely.

Bill C-80, the proposed new Food Safety and Inspection Act, has been dropped because of public protest–but it hasn’t disappeared completely.

The Bill was released to the media by Health Minister Allan Rock early last year. It was published by Public Works and Government Services Canada in two languages and it was presented to the First Session of the 36th Parliament of the House of Commons and first and second readings received in 1999. According to the Right Honorable Allan Rock, the proposed new Act contained "all food safety and nutrition provisions" that are in the present Food and Drug Act.

Consumers didn’t think so. They didn’t like Bill C-80. And Canadian consumers are learning that it pays to let government know. So Parliament backed discreetly away and the new Food Safety and Inspection Act was not presented for third reading.

Canada’s Food and Drug Act was passed by Order in Council in 1927 and revised in 1954. Health Canada evolved and included both drug and food protection. In 1996, the food section split away and became the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), leaving drugs to the Drug Directorate. The CFIA was to provide protection for consumers against food fraud in the growing, processing, storing, inspecting, packaging, labelling, shipping and advertising of food products. However, food safety and nutrition provisions are ambiguously stated in the Food and Drug Act.

What, for instance, does "unfit for human consumption" mean? To many Canadians, it would include all genetically engineered (GE) crops, those grown with systemic chemical pollution (pesticides and herbicides), as well as rotten or vermin-infested food.

Canadians should know just what is in this federal Act. The language is open to interpretation. Its standard government jargon is designed to confuse the consumer, while it engineers loopholes for both the Health Protection Branch (HPB) and the Department of Agriculture to sneak through industry-friendly legislation in order to bring to market controversial products–like GE foods.

And the Food and Drug Act does not include a preamble! In law, a preamble determines the intent of the Legislation. That’s important. Without a preamble, no one knows what Parliament intended when the Act was drafted. The only preamble "of sorts" I was told, was for the section on "adulteration."

So what is the mind of Parliament regarding food safety? Canadians would like to know. Where is our protection? We seem to be without law or legislation to guarantee an uncontaminated food supply--and it looks as though we will not get one because it’s not the intent of Parliament to provide it.

Keeping Government Accountable

Let’s let our elected government officials know that we are aware of what is in the Food and Drug Act. Keep asking for Parliament’s intent for when this act was drafted. Insist that the Act must be made plain and unambiguous. Demand that the regulation which states that "no article of food shall contain any poisonous or harmful substance" and no food shall be advertised in a way that is "false, misleading or deceptive" must mean what it says.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the health minister Allan Rock, and the agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief should be made aware of the federal government’s responsibility to consumers. These are outlined in the Food and Drug Act. If it is changed, it should be for purposes of greater consumer protection against industry and better clarification of current consumer issues--not greater ambiguity. The intent of Parliament should be made plain in a preamble, so that anyone can understand it.

Canadians should ask their elected Members of Parliament, as well as the above-mentioned Cabinet members, to provide copies of any proposed Act along with the preamble in writing. If there is no preamble, ask why.

The future of our food supply is probably the most critical issue facing Canadians and the whole Western world. Genetic engineering affects our health, our environment, our economy and the future of our families. We have to keep making an impact by making an impression on the power brokers.

Excerpt from the Food and Drug Act:

An Act respecting food, drugs, cosmetics and therapeutic devices.

Short title: Food and Drug Act; chapter F-27

Food:

#4 No person shall sell an article of food that:
a) has in it or on it any poisonous or harmful substance
b) is unfit for human consumption
c) consists, in whole or in part, of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance
d) is adulterated, or
e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions

#5 (2) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive, or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.

Look at Section 5 in the present Act. It’s interesting, Maybe that’s one of the sections that the Minister of Health wants to change. If it is contrary to the Act to sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false regarding its character, value, composition and safety, then all processed and packaged food in our supermarkets contravenes the federal regulations. Adulterating any food or class of foods is against the existing Food and Drug Act!

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