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Ottawa Vows to Make Food and Consumer Products Safer
Canada lags behind the rest of the world in its systems for ensuring food and products are safe and the federal government plans to bring in sweeping new measures, from substantial fines to more safety inspectors to bring the country up to speed, Health Minister Tony Clement said Wednesday.
"In all seriousness, we have fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to some of our enforcement," Clement told reporters at a news conference.
The minister said the government is prepared to make major changes to the way it handles food and product safety, including an overhaul of the badly outdated Hazardous Products Act, in order to restore consumer confidence in products coming into the country.
"All of this is on the table right now," Clement said. "There's no quick and simple answer to this challenge, but I think there are things that we can do to modernize how we look at this situation and tighten up with some areas and also give consumers the information they need to make the right choices for themselves."
For instance, Clement highlighted the fact the government doesn't have the authority to order a company to remove its products from the marketplace if they present a potential risk. Health Canada can work with the company and advise a recall, but can't actually force a company to take action - something that has to change in order to better protect Canadians, he said.
The government also doesn't have the ability to issue penalties to companies which sell toys or other products that might be seen as dangerous - an area Clement said is being addressed in the government's product safety review.
A growing number of food and product recalls in recent months, including millions of toys painted with lead, cups that risk choking or cutting children, as well as tainted lettuce, spinach, toothpaste and dog food has sparked alarm among consumers as well as questions about the government's ability to keep harmful products out of the country.
In an effort to ease consumers' minds about food and product safety, the federal government has created a new website that will provide details about current recalls and problematic companies.
"We understand parents and consumers need more information," Clement said. "Canadian consumers do have a right to expect that their government will take every step necessary to ensure their safety."
The site will allow Canadians to search for recalled items by product name, date or company and will include information on recalls dating back to 1995.
"Due to some recent recalls, people have had concerns about the safety of the Canadian food supply. This government is committed to food safety and will introduce measures so that consumers can have more confidence in the quality and safety of what they buy," Clement said.