Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Interpretation Policy Improvement Priorities

Report on Progress – March 31, 2017

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA or the Agency) is pleased to present this Report to Canadians on the progress the organization has made in addressing the areas of improvement in regulatory interpretation practices. The Agency is committed to continuous improvement.

Understanding that an essential element of the CFIA's Interpretation Policy is the identification of areas of improvement, the Agency published an implementation plan that identified improvement priorities (posted to the CFIA's website October 19, 2016).

Through internal review and consideration, as well as through engagement of members of the Regulatory Sub-Committee (a forum of the Agriculture and Agri-food Value Chain Roundtables), the CFIA identified three priority areas of improvement including:

  • the transparency and predictability of the pre-market approval processes,
  • the internal sharing of stakeholder provided information through a single window approach, and
  • the processes related to stakeholder service, engagement, and information sharing.

Identified Areas of Improvement:

1. Enhance transparency and predictability of pre-market approval processes

The CFIA will:

  • Develop a clearer communications process between the Pre-market Applications Submissions Office, the regulatory programs, and applicants, to provide consistent and timely information to applicants.

Progress: The Agency updated guidance to improve pre-submission consultations with prospective applicants of Plants with Novel Traits, Novel Feeds and Novel Foods. Through an interdepartmental working group with Health Canada, focused on increasing transparency and predictability, the Agency created communication tools to help applicants better understand the regulatory process.

More specifically, in order to develop consistent language for communication with applicants regarding the status of their pre-market applications, agricultural biotechnology companies and companies involved in the development of novel plant products were engaged to review and provide feedback regarding two draft documents:

  1. The "Status Update Vocabulary Consultation Document", and
  2. The "Example Status Email Document".

These documents provide consistency in vocabulary used to describe each step during the pre-market assessment of novel plant products in order to improve applicant's understanding of what is taking place, and who is involved in the assessment.

Stakeholder response has been positive and use of the new consistent vocabulary is planned for Spring 2017. Further consideration is being given to implementing new procedures for timely and consistent communication with applicants.

The CFIA will:

  • Implement the CFIA Service Management Strategy which will provide a guide for ongoing revision and development of service improvement initiatives and investments following a "client-centric service". Business services will be designed to meet the needs of the targeted client groups, in a transparent, predictable and repeatable process.

Progress: On January 10, 2017, the CFIA launched 'My CFIA', the Agency's window to electronic services whereby clients are able to enroll for a 'My CFIA' account and gain access to services online related to enrolment, permissions (for example, licences, registration), export certificates and inspection.

Industry members (businesses) who enroll with 'My CFIA' can conduct business transactions online, such as making requests for licences and registration. Through the secure portal, businesses are able to view and manage their transactions anywhere, anytime.

This secure electronic platform provides better access to CFIA services. Throughout 2017, in addition to more services being added, more industry sectors will have access to services online. A rollout plan of what services will be available online over the coming months is available at inspection.gc.ca/MyCFIA.

2. Enhancing internal sharing of stakeholder provided information through a single window approach

The CFIA will:

  • Conduct an internal pilot project to explore the feasibility of work sharing between regulatory groups. A review will include an analysis of the pilot's successes, challenges and, recommendations for next steps.

Progress: In 2016/17, a pilot project involving the various teams involved in completing pre-market assessments was completed to evaluate the feasibility of work sharing regarding pre-market assessment of novel plant products.

An analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the pilot project, including lessons learned, was conducted and a summary report was prepared in December 2016. Next steps with respect to this area of improvement will be determined with additional input from stakeholders in the coming months.

3. Improving processes related to stakeholder service, engagement, and information sharing

The CFIA will:

  • Update its Frequently Asked Questions online on a recurring basis, and add Frequently Asked Questions to address the identified areas of improvement.

Progress: Frequently Asked Questions to address identified areas of improvement were posted to the CFIA's website on October 19, 2016. The CFIA will continue to update posted the Frequently Asked Questions with those additional questions that are received on a recurring basis.

'Ask CFIA', a service available through the CFIA website, provides industry with one point of entry to ask questions and to obtain information that will enhance their understanding regarding regulatory requirements and compliance. Depending on the complexity of the question, this could include CFIA follow up with the requestor to better understand their question. As additional services become accessible through the online portal and additional industry sectors gain access to these services online, the CFIA will have additional sources of information to support updating Frequently Asked Questions and responding consistently to stakeholder queries.

The CFIA will:

  • Regularly check in with stakeholders and track feedback to continue to measure areas of improvement.

Progress: The CFIA is currently reviewing its domestic stakeholder engagement process and activities to create a more robust and coordinated approach that will include proactively identifying opportunities to seek feedback and bring stakeholders together.

In the planning and implementation of many of its initiatives, the CFIA seeks feedback from stakeholders via a range of mechanisms, including face-to-face opportunities, webinars, surveys, etc. Feedback from stakeholders is used to obtain a better understanding of their perspectives and how the CFIA can continue to modernize the way in which it delivers its programs and services.

In the long term, the Agency is exploring opportunities to further enhance the single window approach to managing stakeholder engagement activities. This will facilitate a more consistent approach to stakeholder engagement across the Agency, allow the CFIA to broaden scope and type of engagement and communications activities with stakeholders, and provide opportunities that will encourage stakeholders to participate in a dialogue with the CFIA (e.g. via CFIA convened opportunities).

The CFIA will:

  • Develop service standards for responding to written regulatory enquiries.

Progress: 'Ask CFIA', the online service platform that provides industry with a single window to query the CFIA, is now available for the following sectors: dairy, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed products (fruit and vegetable), egg and egg products, honey and maple products. Plans are in progress to add the remaining industry sectors.

'Ask CFIA' provides consistent, written answers to questions received within set service expectations. Specifically, when a question is received, an e-mail confirming its receipt is sent to the requestor that provides them with an enquiry identification. The requestor will then receive a response e-mail within two to five business days.

Depending on the technical complexity of the question, the CFIA may be in contact with the requestor to obtain more information, at which time the Agency will also provide an estimate of when the requestor can expect to receive the written response.

In the first twelve weeks of 'Ask CFIA's' operation, 160 enquiries and 10,116 unique visits were answered quickly and accurately.

During Red Tape Reduction Week in January 2017, the CFIA received an Honourable Mention from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business' Golden Scissors awards for its new service 'Ask CFIA'. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business awards the Golden Scissors on an annual basis to an individual or group who has successfully motivated or demonstrated leadership and courage, and has produced meaningful and positive results in cutting red tape for small business.

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