Annual Summary Report 2016-2017

1.0 Purpose

This report was prepared by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Foreign Verification Office (FVO). It outlines how foreign establishments are selected, how the FVO's verification mandate is delivered, and gives a summary of the results of the year's verification missions. Consistent with CFIA's commitment to transparency and accountability, this summary report is intended for Canadian consumers of imported food products, importers and foreign exporters of products destined for the Canadian market, as well as Foreign Competent Authorities (FCA) charged with ensuring the safety of their products destined for Canada.

2.0 Introduction to the Foreign Verification Office

The Foreign Verification Office

The manner in which food is produced and distributed around the world is constantly evolving. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), similar to other government authorities responsible for food safety, makes continuous improvements and adjustments to its food safety system in order to address new challenges.

The FVO was one of the initiatives created by the CFIA to address the complex issues posed by the globalization of the food market. The FVO was established in 2016 to perform food safety-based verifications of establishments producing food products that are exported to Canada. These verifications serve as a component of the CFIA's preventative measures to address food safety risks associated with imported food products.

Countries and Establishment Selection

The CFIA has developed a risk-based country prioritization tool which ranks the risk of countries exporting food products to Canada by considering the volume of imports, Point of Entry (POE) violations, food safety investigations, recalls as well as inspection data. Countries and establishments are selected based on pre-identified food safety triggers. Establishment verifications may be conducted at the manufacturing establishments, brokers, distributors and facilities repacking or relabelling products for export to Canada.

Verification Process

Establishment verifications are conducted on-site by a CFIA Foreign Verification Team (FVT) of two or more officers, with experience in inspection-related activities in various food commodities. When possible, the verifications are planned and conducted with the assistance and support of the appropriate FCA.

During foreign verifications, the FVT observes the manufacturers' processes and gathers information through interviews, document review and a walk-through of the establishment. Information gathered is analyzed to determine whether the manufacturers comply with the applicable Canadian import requirements and with internationally recognized standards for the production of safe foods, such as those outlined by the World Health Organization's Codex Alimentarius.

Once the mission is completed, a verification report is prepared outlining the FVT's observations and issued to the foreign authority and the establishments within 60 days of the end of the mission.

FVO Objectives

The main objectives of foreign establishment verifications are:

  • To observe how the manufactured food products meet Canadian import requirements or provide the same level of food safety as compared to what is expected from food manufactured in Canada;
  • To promote compliance to Canadian requirements with trading partners and foreign authorities counterparts;
  • To gather information to further address the risks associated with imported foods and help better refine the import surveillance work within Canada.

Reporting Food Safety Issues

A food safety risk is recognized when there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a product could cause severe or temporary health effects for humans. When food safety risks requiring immediate attention are observed upon verification of foreign establishments, appropriate control measures are undertaken to prevent unsafe food products from entering or being distributed within the Canadian marketplace. Examples of control measures include:

  • Food safety investigation and recall of products found in the Canadian marketplace;
  • Enhancing sampling, inspection and surveillance activity for imported food from a targeted establishment/country;
  • Requiring additional import documentation from a targeted establishment or country;
  • Holding and testing imported products.

3.0 First Year Milestones and Events

During fiscal year 2016-17, the FVO conducted three (3) establishment verification missions and visited a total of 27 establishments in Europe and Asia. Prior to conducting the first foreign verification mission, the FVO completed the following milestones:

  • Staffed a management team and eleven (11) Foreign Verification Officers;
  • Drafted a Foreign Missions Manual, an Assessment Guide based on the Codex Alimentarius, and various tools to assist in the planning and delivery of the verifications;
  • Trained all staff in the verification process and security and cultural awareness, in cooperation with audit experts within CFIA and Global Affairs Canada.

4.0 Establishment Verification Delivery

The FVTs completed three (3) verification missions from November 2016 to March 2017. For the inaugural verifications, some establishments in the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) were selected without having a food safety trigger, in order to pilot the newly developed tools and processes.

The FVO also participated with the CFIA Policy and Programs Branch (PPB) in three Country Assessment Missions. These assessments are periodically conducted with Canada's trading partners and the results are not included in this report.

Table 1: Missions completed in 2016-2017
Country Mission Type Establishments selected Trigger
UK (England) FVO Establishment Verification Thirteen (13) establishments manufacturing or distributing confectionery, snack food, non-alcoholic beverages, sauces and spices. Undeclared allergens incidents
EU (Portugal, Greece and Italy) FVO Establishment Verification Eight (8) establishments manufacturing pasta, cheese and honey. Listeria and E.coli incidents and chemical residues
Philippines FVO Establishment Verification Six (6) establishments manufacturing snack food, sauces and non-alcoholic beverages. Undeclared allergens incidents

5.0 Verification Results and Impact

Observations reported

The FVO uses the seven Elements of the Preventive Control Plans (PCP) outlined in the integrated Agency Inspection Model (iAIM) and the Codex Alimentarius standards and principles to verify onsite how the food safety outcomes are achieved. Observations noted in the verification reports are evidence of non-compliances to Canadian import requirements or failures to meet internationally recognized standards for hygienic production of food. Figure 1 identifies the total number of observations reported in the three missions completed in 2016-17.

Figure 1: Total number of observations per Element of a Preventive Control Plan (PCP)
Table showing Total number of observations per Element of a Preventive Control Plan
Figure 1: Total number of observations per Element of a Preventive Control Plan (PCP)

The total number of establishment verifications conducted per mission is as follows:

  • United Kingdom (UK): 13
  • Philippines: 6
  • European Union (EU): 8

The total number of observations reported per country and per element is as follows:

  • Element 1: Five (5) observations reported in the UK, six (6) observations reported in the Philippines and one (1) observation reported in the EU.
  • Element 2: Five (5) observations reported in the UK, five (5) observations reported in the Philippines and two (2) observations reported in the EU.
  • Element 3: Two (2) observations reported in the UK, three (3) observations reported in the Philippines and five (5) observations reported in the EU.
  • Element 4: One (1) observation reported in the UK, four (4) observations reported in the Philippines and four (4) observations reported in the EU.
  • Element 5: Three (3) observations reported in the UK, six (6) observations reported in the Philippines and six (6) observations reported in the EU.
  • Element 6: One (1) observation reported in the UK, two (2) observations reported in the Philippines and three (3) observations reported in the EU.
  • Element 7: No observations reported in the UK, three (3) observations reported in the Philippines and no observations reported in the EU.

The seven elements of a preventive control plan (PCP) are:

  1. Process and Product control
  2. Sanitation, Biosecurity, Biocontainment, Pest Control and Chemicals
  3. Hygiene, Biosecurity and Employee Training
  4. Equipment Design and Maintenance
  5. Physical structure, Surroundings and Maintenance
  6. Transportation and Storage
  7. Traceability, Controls and Complaints

A summary of commonly reported observations is listed below:

  • Element 1: Twelve (12) observations were reported regarding process and product control, including potential cross contamination with allergenic and non-allergenic foods, and failure to meet Canadian labelling requirements for ingredient declaration.
  • Element 2: Twelve (12) observations were reported regarding sanitation and pest control, including buildup of dust or dirt on building structures and equipment, and ineffective pest control program.
  • Element 3: Ten (10) observations were reported regarding employees hygienic practices that may contribute to the contamination of food handled by the employees.
  • Element 4: Nine (9) observations were reported of equipment not maintained or monitored to prevent contamination of food products.
  • Element 5: Fifteen (15) observations were reported regarding physical structure, including presence of condensation or rust on overhead structures, and damaged or inadequate building structures in premises where food products are handled or stored.

Impact and Actions taken regarding the observations

All observations were communicated to the foreign establishment's representative and to the FCA through a verification report. Corrective actions have been taken or are currently in the process of being implemented by the establishments and are monitored by the FCAs.

The FVO observed five food safety issues that required immediate attention, including possible undeclared allergens and products that may be affected by other food safety hazards related to sanitation and building maintenance. Food safety investigations were initiated on the product within the Canadian marketplace to further assess risk. As a result of one of the investigations there was a Class I recall for undeclared allergens. Other investigations are ongoing.

In addition to investigating the food products within the Canadian market, the next shipment of products manufactured from the establishments were inspected upon arrival at the Canadian border.

Cooperation with Foreign Competent Authorities and foreign establishments

For the three missions conducted in 2016-17, the FVTs were accompanied by representatives of the respective FCA. Establishment verifications have allowed for an exchange of valuable information between the CFIA and the foreign establishments. When meeting in-person with the representatives of the FCA and industry, the CFIA builds on new or existing relationships with trading partners and has an opportunity to explain and clarify Canadian regulations, increasing their ability to meet Canadian requirements.

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