Health Canada

Health Canada

April 16, 2013 10:53 ET

Minister of Health Announces Upcoming Actions to Support the Health and Safety of Canadian Families

Government, parents and community members come together to discuss the safety of consumer products, drugs and food

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 16, 2013) - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, hosted a meeting in Ottawa today with concerned parents and community members to outline action that will be taken by the Harper Government in the coming months to help support the health and safety of Canadian families. This follows from the Prime Minister's announcement in January that supporting families will be a priority for the Government.

"Canadians don't want government to raise their kids, but they do want government to take action to support the health and safety of their families," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Over the coming months our government will be launching efforts to do just that in areas like food, drug and consumer product safety."

Minister Aglukkaq identified measures that will be taken related to consumer product safety, drug safety and food safety.

The Minister announced today new initiatives that will include:

  • Moving towards more plain language on drug labels;
  • Taking action on products that contain small, powerful magnets which threaten the safety of young children;
  • Establishing a new research centre which will strengthen Canada's ability to pinpoint and stop food-borne illnesses;
  • Improving the reporting of adverse drug reactions; and,
  • Proposing enhanced safety standards for playpens sold in Canada.

"The Prime Minister has stated clearly that supporting Canadian families is a priority for our Government," said Minister Aglukkaq. "As Health Minister, and as a mother, I am proud to outline areas where our Government will take concrete action in the months ahead."

For more information on how the Government of Canada is working to protect the health and safety of Canadians, please visit the Healthy Canadians website.

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Upcoming Actions to Support the Health and Safety of Canadian Families

Taking action on products that contain small, powerful magnets which threaten the safety of young children:

Health Canada has determined that some products containing small powerful magnets are a danger to children and their presence in the marketplace is a violation of the general prohibition under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA). Health Canada is now taking action to identify and have these dangerous products removed from the marketplace.

These magnets are found in some novelty magnet sets which appeal to children and some children's toys. Health Canada is particularly concerned about magnet sets containing more than one small powerful magnet, where the set is intended for use as a toy or for puzzle working, sculpture building, mental stimulation or stress relief, regardless of the intended age of the user. Health Canada is equally concerned about some children's toys that contain small powerful magnets or magnetic components. Health Canada's position is that toys on the Canadian marketplace should conform with at least one of the latest versions of internationally respected safety standards (e.g. ASTM F963, EN 71, ISO 8124) with respect to magnets or magnetic components.

Magnets that are very small can be easily swallowed or inhaled. Unlike other small objects that would be more likely to pass normally through the digestive system if swallowed, when more than one powerful magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract one another while travelling through the digestive system. The magnets can then pinch together and create a blockage and slowly tear through the intestinal walls, causing perforations. The results can be very serious and even fatal. There have been many cases of children requiring emergency surgical treatment to remove swallowed magnets and/or magnetic toy pieces from their intestines.

Establishing a new research centre which will strengthen Canada's ability to pinpoint and stop food-borne illnesses:

The Government of Canada continues to be committed to food safety and illness prevention by enhancing food-borne illness surveillance to ensure the best possible protection for Canadians. The Government is expanding its proactive food-borne illness surveillance program, known as C-EnterNet, with a third surveillance site. C-EnterNet tracks food and water-borne gastrointestinal illnesses and their likely sources (e.g., food, water and livestock) to identify risks, to prevent diseases from occurring and to lessen the impact of illness on Canadians.

C-EnterNet, which is facilitated by the Public Health Agency of Canada, relies on collaboration among public health partners at all levels of government, industry and other stakeholders within each surveillance site. It is currently active in two sites: Region of Waterloo, Ontario and Fraser Region, British Columbia. The third surveillance site will enhance the Government's ability to inform food safety, public health decision making and policy development.

Improving the reporting of adverse drug reactions:

Adverse drug reactions are an important source of information used by Health Canada to detect potential new concerns with health products. We receive adverse reaction reports from drug manufacturers, healthcare professionals and consumers.

In recent years, Health Canada has looked at ways to improve the quality and quantity of adverse reaction reports from healthcare professionals. That's why we commissioned Accreditation Canada to include, for the first time, a component on the reporting of adverse drug reactions in its Medication Management Standards. The standards are now available to more than 700 health care facilities in Canada, including hospitals and long term care facilities. They will provide guidance such as how to report patients' adverse reactions to drugs, and who is responsible for reporting them.

The application of the adverse reaction reporting standard is expected to increase the quality and quantity of reporting from these organizations. Health Canada will monitor reporting to assess improvements under the new standard.

This new standard also complements Health Canada's efforts to promote adverse reaction reporting, including marketing activities aimed at health professionals in Canada.

Proposing enhanced safety standards for playpens sold in Canada:

The Department is considering a number of changes to the Playpens Regulations, to help further protect the safety of Canadian babies and children, including increasing side height requirements for playpens and establishing strict safety standards for playpen accessories.

The proposed changes would introduce stricter standards for side height, side and floor strength and latching and locking mechanisms, and additional requirements for safety warnings, floor pad spacing and thickness, and entanglement. Additionally, playpen accessories such as change tables and sleep accessories would be regulated products under the proposed regulations, establishing strict safety standards for these items, including performance requirements and test methods. These changes would further align Canada's Playpens Regulations with international standards, and build upon the 2010 Policy Statement for Playpen Accessories issued by the Department, which specifically addressed the hazards posed by playpen accessories.

Moving towards more plain language on drug labels:

'Plain language' means presenting drug information in a way that makes sense and is easy to read. Giving Canadians clear, understandable information about their medications will help them make better choices about their health.

For example, Health Canada is currently working with industry on new ways to choose drug names, so that we can reduce the number of medicines that are confused because their names look or sound alike. This will help Canadians avoid mixing up drugs that have similar names.

Contact Information

  • Media Inquiries:
    Health Canada

    Cailin Rodgers
    Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
    Federal Minister of Health

    Public Enquiries: