ARCHIVED - Evaluation of Changes to Inter-Departmental Interfaces

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Evaluation

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Evaluation Directorate is responsible for evaluating the relevance and performance of agency programs, policies and initiatives. This effort supports informed decision-making and enhances performance and accountability.

The Evaluation Directorate is accountable to the CFIA's Evaluation Committee, chaired by the President. All evaluations must be reported to the Evaluation Committee and must be conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board's 2009 Policy on Evaluation. Evaluation projects are selected based on higher risk or significance during an annual Agency planning process, and then reflected in the Agency's Evaluation Plan, which is approved by the Evaluation Committee.

Overview

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted an internal evaluation of Changes to Inter-Departmental Interfaces. The objective of the evaluation was "… to assess the design and effectiveness of the inter-departmental and inter-jurisdictional interfaces during a food safety incident."

The Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak (Weatherill Report) was released in July 2009, outlining the events that led to the 2008 listeriosis outbreak and examining what occurred. Among the weaknesses identified in the report were inadequacies in the inter-departmental and inter-jurisdictional interfaces related to food safety investigations and emergency response.

Since the publication of that report, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada (HC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have implemented a number of measures to improve and strengthen their inter-departmental interfaces. These include:

  • Updating and exercising the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (FIORP). This protocol was in place at the time of the listeriosis outbreak, but according to the Weatherill Report it was not used consistently.
  • Development (by PHAC) of the Foodborne Illness Emergency Response Plan, in consultation with CFIA and HC.
  • Implementation (by the CFIA) of the Incident Command Structure approach, in conjunction with PHAC.
  • Development of guidelines on the weight of evidence needed to take action.
  • Formation of the Agri-Subcommittee on Food Safety by AAFC, a government (CFIA, HC, PHAC, AAFC) industry forum.
  • Formation of the Network of Networks Federal Committee (involving PHAC, HC, and the CFIA to improve exchange of food-related laboratory data, expertise and enhance lab capacity.
  • Formation of a Special Committee of Deputy Heads to improve coordination among the CFIA/HC/PHAC and AAFC.
  • Development of new internal governance mechanisms (for HC, PHAC, and the CFIA).

This evaluation focused on the measures that have been implemented, primarily by the CFIA, during the two-year period 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Key Findings

The evaluation reports that, overall, the inter-departmental, inter-jurisdictional ability to manage and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks has been significantly strengthened since the 2008 listeriosis event. The CFIA contributes to the enhanced understanding of approaches, process, analysis and disposition of affected food products.

The data gathered and assessed shows that key stakeholders, such as the CFIA, HC, PHAC, provinces and territories have invested time and attention to enhancing existing documentation and governance structures.

Investments have been made in developing and implementing new documentation and governance structures, as well as in clarifying roles and responsibilities with respect to foodborne illness outbreak coordination, communication, response and management.

Despite these changes, the evaluation noted that opportunities exist for continued focus and improvement.

Recommendations and response

The CFIA continually improves its programs and protocols. Management's commitment to addressing recommendations made by internal evaluations like this one is a critical part of that continual improvement.

The Agency has developed a management response and action plan to address the opportunities for improvement identified by the evaluation.

Recommendation 1 - Review federal, provincial and territorial memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to determine if a higher level of consistency can be attained

  • The Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (FIORP) is intended to serve as a guidance document for provincial/territorial partners to develop individual food illness outbreak response plans aligned with the FIORP.
  • Currently, the FIORP serves as the principal guide for federal and provincial/territorial partners when dealing with a response to a foodborne illness outbreak which is being led by PHAC.
  • CFIA/Provincial MOUs exist with Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territories. These documents are tailored to each province.
  • A revision of the CFIA/Ontario MOU is underway. The new document "Ontario FIORP" or "ON-FIORP" is aligned with the FIORP.
  • The CFIA and partners in British Columbia have negotiated a revised agreement (BCFIORP) which aligns with the current FIORP.
  • The CFIA has initiated discussions with partners in Alberta in an effort to align the existing agreement, Canada Alberta Partners in Food Safety (CAPiFS), with the FIORP.
  • A working group has been struck between the CFIA and partner agencies in Saskatchewan to discuss the next steps relating to the current food safety MOU.
  • The CFIA and the Ministère des pêcheries et de l'alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) have agreed to amend the annexes to the existing MOU, which outlines communication and sharing of information for food safety investigation in the province of Quebec, to be in accordance with the FIORP.

Complete report:

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