Questions and answers: Draft Improved food inspection model
Why is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) strengthening its approach to food inspection?
Canada’s food inspection system is among the strongest in the world but the environment in which the CFIA operates is changing and the Agency needs to change with it. New technologies, tools and a stronger approach to food inspection are needed to properly manage today's food safety risks. The CFIA is designing a single and consistent approach to inspection that will be applied across all food commodities that are either imported or produced domestically. This will allow the CFIA to continue fulfilling the recommendations made by the Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak, also known as the Weatherill Report.
Read The Case for Change.
How is the CFIA strengthening food inspection?
The Government of Canada committed $100 million in Budget 2011 over five years for the CFIA to modernize food inspection. The CFIA is using this investment to
- develop a more consistent approach to food inspection, allowing the Agency to better manage how it detects and responds to food safety risks
- increase science capacity in food laboratories, and
- equip its inspectors with advanced training and state-of-the-art tools and technology to better manage and share information.
How does inspection modernization relate to the Safe Food for Canadians Act and the CFIA's plan to review its regulatory frameworks?
Efforts to modernize Canada’s legislative, regulatory and inspection frameworks are part of a series of complementary initiatives designed to ensure modern approaches are applied to keep food safe for Canadians. These efforts will provide stronger food inspection and greater industry compliance with food safety requirements.
The new Safe Food for Canadians Act provides the legal framework for consistent regulatory requirements and inspection approaches across all food. The Act sets the stage for broad discussions with stakeholders about new food regulations that are needed to bring the Act into force and to support the proposed new inspection approach as well as Canada’s food safety system going forward.
With whom is the CFIA consulting on how it will improve food inspection?
The CFIA is consulting with CFIA staff, including front line inspectors, bargaining agents, consumers, industry, federal, provincial and territorial government partners, academia as well as international partners through spring 2013.
What is the CFIA doing with the results of this broad consultation?
The CFIA is developing an improved food inspection model based on the feedback it receives. A report summarizing the input received on the initial draft model is posted on the Agency's website.
Who can I speak to if I have any questions related to this consultation?
If you have questions about this initiative, you can contact us by email.
How will the proposed inspection approach be implemented?
The CFIA will phase in the new approach in planned increments beginning the summer or fall of 2013. The CFIA will work with stakeholders to devise a strategy about how and when changes to their sector will occur.
How does this benefit consumers?
The approach proposes clear, consistent rules and better equipped inspectors to promote greater industry compliance with their food safety obligations. Ultimately, this will mean safer food for Canadians and better responsiveness to emerging food safety issues and emergencies.
How does this benefit industry?
Industry is responsible for producing safe food and meeting regulatory requirements. The model proposes a consistent approach across all food, whether it is imported or produced domestically for interprovincial trade, which should facilitate compliance. Industry would be able to design systems that comply with all relevant CFIA requirements.
Are additional inspectors or other resources needed as a result of modernizing inspection?
The CFIA does not anticipate requiring new inspectors or other staff as a result of this proposed approach.
How would licences be issued?
The draft improved food inspection model proposes to license parties that import, export or prepare food for sale outside provincial borders. Licences would be issued if the applicant meets certain conditions including developing, documenting, implementing and maintaining a preventive control plan that effectively meets food safety and other regulatory requirements.
The CFIA is developing service standards to administer licenses and assist establishments that are currently licensed or registered federally into the proposed new regime.
How would the CFIA verify licence applications?
The CFIA would verify that applications are complete and that applicants meet the necessary conditions. Domestic establishments, exporters and importers dealing with high-risk product may be subject to pre-licensing inspection.
How is the CFIA proposing to determine the level of oversight and inspection frequency?
The CFIA is developing a framework that would determine the level of Agency oversight and frequency of inspection. This approach allows the CFIA to deliver better inspections and better manage risk based on sound scientific evidence.
How would this new inspection approach affect the work of front line inspectors?
While CFIA inspectors would continue to test and sample food product and/or processing conditions as well as verify compliance of specific production lots, they would additionally need to look at industry controls in order to assess their effectiveness.
The CFIA is investing significant funds into training its inspectors in order that they have the knowledge and skills to carry out their duties.
How would this new inspection approach affect establishments that prepare food sold within provincial borders?
The proposed model relates to inspection activities under the CFIA inspection statutes. For the most part, these statutes cover only establishments that prepare food for sale outside provincial borders (interprovincial trade). Neither they nor the proposed model include establishments that prepare food for sale within provincial borders (intraprovincial trade).
Food prepared for sale within provincial borders would continue to be subject to the safety requirements of the federal Food and Drugs Act. It would also continue to be included in the CFIA’s surveillance plans.
How would the new inspection approach strengthen the CFIA’s control over imported and exported food?
The draft model proposes that all food would be inspected consistently, whether it is imported or produced domestically for interprovincial trade. All parties that import or export food outside provincial borders would have to be licensed and have a preventive control plan that demonstrates how it is producing safe food and meeting regulatory requirements – and in the case of exporters, meet trade requirements of the foreign country.
How does the draft model align with the Agency’s proposed new regulations for imported food?
The draft model proposes that importers
- be licensed,
- develop and implement a preventive control plan, and
- have a responsible party residing in Canada and a Canadian address where records would be available to CFIA inspectors.
The Canadian Border Services Agency would continue to clear shipments into Canada with the assistance of the CFIA. However, all importers would have to own a valid license.
This approach is consistent with the CFIA’s proposed new regulations for imported food in the federally non-federally registered sector (NFRS).
The NFRS encompasses a wide range of products, including infant foods, alcoholic beverages, bakery products, and cereal products. The new regulations for imported food in the NFRS is part of the Government’s commitment to food safety in the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan that was announced on December 17, 2007.
How would this new inspection approach affect food labelling?
The proposed model continues to require that regulated parties have accurate information on their labels.
CFIA inspectors would continue to verify that the information on labels of food products reflects what is actually in the product, and to ensure that food safety labelling requirements are met in such a way by testing for the potential presence of undeclared allergens in food products.
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