Canadian regulations hamper functional food innovation

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition

A Canadian industry association has singled out functional foods as
a potentional savior of the country's manufacturing sector.
However, it insists Canada will miss out on this unless its heavy
regulatory environment is loosened.

This week, a government industry committee issued a report on Canada's manufacturing sector and subsequently received a show of support from Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), an association representing Canada's food, beverage and consumer products industry. In the absence of reforms, FCPC said Canadians could face a lack of access to innovative products being developed and sold in markets around the world.

FCPC said functional foods could bolster the country's manufacturing sector if restrictions on health claims, among other things, are relaxed.

"The future is in functional foods with consumers increasingly choosing foods with specific attributes to manage their health,"​ said Croituru. "Simply put, our trading competitors are investing heavily to build enabling regulatory systems to commercialize and manufacture these products and Canada isn't."

The House of Commons report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology titled "MANUFACTURING: MOVING FORWARD - RISING TO THE CHALLENGE"​ looked at regulations in the country's manufacturing sector.

Until the new regulation governing foods is finalized and put into force in Canada, functional foods may not be sold there. The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD), a division of Health Canada has regulations covering herbal remedies, homeopathic and traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids, all of which have to be issued with a license before they can be sold.

The allocated natural health products number must be printed on product packaging. However there has been some confusion over the jurisdiction of the NHPD, since a health claim based on ingredients means a product is a 'natural health' product - even though it may also be marketed as food or drink. Health Canada recently put the processing of these food and beverage license submissions on hold while the NHPD and the Foods Directorate grapple over which jurisdiction such products fall under.

Canadian regulations currently allow manufacturers to make only five health claims, while the United States, currently has 18 health claims.

"The Committee's recommendations demonstrate a solid understanding of howCanada's outdated and poorly performing regulatory system is killinginvestment, innovation and jobs in Canadian manufacturing,"​ said NancyCroitoru, FCPC's President and CEO. "Now it falls to the Government to act onthese recommendations and create enabling 'smart regulations' so our industrycan have the chance to grow in Canada and to compete on the world stage."

The FCPC said that in the food sector alone, Canada's current regulatory systemis ill-prepared to meet opportunities in the category of "health and therapeutic foods", thereby forcing manufacturers to develop, produce and market new products elsewhere.

"At a time when governments are spending billions on health care andlooking for ways to add value to agriculture, does it make sense that we havea regulatory system that drives away investment in food innovation?"​ asked Croituru.

FCPC insists health claims are critical for investment in research and development as manufacturers need to recoup the costs this entails by means of letting consumers know what benefit a product may have for their health.

Canada's five current health claims are:

Canada's five health claims are:

-a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease

-a healthy diet with adequate calcium and Vitamin D, and regular physical activity, help to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis

-a healthy diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk of some types of cancer

-a healthy diet containing foods high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease and dietary sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay.

Related topics: Regulation

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