Over the last few years, there has been a lot of movement within the policies that regulate food safety in Canadian food processing plants.
The traditional letters of no-objection (LONOs) issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have been for the most part, abolished, leaving the responsibility in the hands of the processor and the manufacturer. However, processing aids remain in the list of products that are still reviewed by CFIA.
This policy applies only to those food processing aids for which a federal government body, namely the CFIA, requires a LONO from Health Canada. Currently, the CFIA only requires LONOs for those food processing aids that are intended to be used as antimicrobial agents applied directly on foods processed in federally registered meat and poultry establishments.
The distinction between a food additive and a food processing aid is described in Health Canada’s Policy for Differentiating Food Additives and Processing Aids. That policy sets out an administrative definition of a food processing aid as follows:
“A food processing aid is a substance that is used for a technical effect in food processing or manufacture, the use of which does not affect the intrinsic characteristics of the food and results in no or negligible residues of the substance or its by-products in or on the finished food.”
This being said, processing aids are directly applied on food and may play a critical function such as control or reduction of microbial pathogens.