The federal government is moving to streamline Canada's food inspection system with legislation it says would allow better control of imports and exports and impose far bigger fines for violations.
The government says fines for serious breaches of food safety could run to $5-million or higher, from the present top level of $250,000.
The current system has different acts covering fish, meat and other farm products, as well as foods covered by the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the new bill will consolidate inspection and enforcement provisions for all these products, reduce overlap and make it easier for producers to comply with food safety law.
The legislation also contains new penalties for those who recklessly endanger lives through tampering, deceptive practices or hoaxes.
Other provisions would allow certification of any food commodity for export, which Mr. Ritz says will increase global confidence in Canadian food.
The bill will also strengthen controls over imported food commodities, introduce powers to register or license regulated parties and prohibit the importation of unsafe foods.
Mr. Ritz said the legislation is the result of extensive consultation over a number of years with industry, consumer groups, provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders.
"Our government is committed to making food as safe as possible for Canadian families," the minister said in a statement.
The Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition welcomed the announcement of the bill.
The coalition is an umbrella group representing primary producers, transport and marketing groups, producer councils and provincial and national associations tied to food.
"The federal government's initiative . . . to modernize Canada's food safety legislation and regulations is a major step forward," Albert Chambers, executive director of the coalition, said in a news release.
"The proposals . . . meet many of the food safety objectives of both industry and government; they complete initiatives identified by previous governments; and they will position Canada's food safety regime well in the rapidly changing global regulatory environment."