Canadian legislation to introduce hefty fines for food fraud

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th June 2012

The Canadian Conservative government announced last week a new Bill that proposes to introduce changes to the food inspection system, including imposing fines of up to $5 million against violators.

The proposed new maximum penalty is significantly higher than the current Canadian $250,000. The changes to the system are designed to improve control of imported and exported foods.

Canada’s current food inspection system has numerous separate pieces of legislation covering fish, meat and other farm products. The new Bill would merge inspection and enforcement provisions, reduce overlap and make it easier for producers to comply. The legislation also contains new penalties for those who recklessly endanger lives through tampering, hoaxes, or deceptive practices.

Meanwhile, Australia has a two-tiered food safety system: imported food are subject to randomized scrutiny by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) while surveillance of foods on the domestic market is the domain of State and local government agencies as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC has substantial powers already to impose hefty fines in Australia, according to food lawyer Joe Lederman of FoodLegal.

Mr Lederman said that State agencies such as the New South Wales Food Authority have also prosecuted companies for misleading or deceptive statements or misrepresentations.  Multiple infringements can lead to an accumulation of fines but would still be well below the Canadian $5 million level. In Australia, federal agencies are empowered to impose higher levels of fines than those imposed under the State laws.