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CFIA’s Single Food Program Restructuring

Posted April 28, 2014

As part of the CFIA’s modernization agenda to enhance its business functions and services and inspired by the more horizontal focus of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, the Agency is transitioning away from commodity-based approaches toward a horizontal, single food program design.
Until recently, the CFIA operated eight separate food programs: dairy, egg, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, imported and manufactured food, maple, meat, and processed products such as honey. This structure presented challenges in:

  • managing risks consistently across different types of establishments and different foods.
  • creating situations in which foods of similar risks may be inspected at different frequencies or in different ways; and
  • causing industry to meet multiple and different requirements that can be difficult to address.

The challenge of maintaining eight different inspection programs coupled with changing methods of global food production, processing and distribution has necessitated the development of an improved and standardized food inspection model. This model is based on risk and prevention of non-compliance that will replace the eight food inspection programs the agency currently operates.

The new inspection model (developed in consultation with industry over the past two years) has five key components:

  1. Licensing/registration – A licensing and registration requirement for regulated parties that import or export food or that manufacture or process food for trade between provinces;
  2. CFIA oversight – Varying levels of CFIA oversight that would be based on the level of risk;
  3. Inspection – A systems approach to inspection that would assess the preventative control plans and procedures of regulated parties to ensure that food is prepared safely and complies with regulations;
  4. Compliance and enforcement – One common compliance and enforcement strategy for food; and
  5. System performance – Mechanisms to evaluate the CFIA’s inspection program for consistency, effectiveness and performance.

CFIA is hopeful that an updated food inspection system will benefit the food industry in a number of ways. For instance:

The CFIA hopes that inspection modernization will improve market access and give Canadian companies the flexibility to design controls that demonstrate their operations and products comply with all relevant federal standards. It also aims to create a more level playing field for businesses by streamlining the inspection process into a single system and eliminating the need for businesses to address multiple requirements.

The CFIA stresses that the move to fully implement a single food program does not change what it does or the nature of the work it performs, but the transition period over the next 12 months may result in changes to current CFIA program and policy contacts and to the way in which the CFIA consults with stakeholders.

As of April 1, certain CFIA staff working on food-related files began to transition to a new reporting structure, with many reporting to new managers and directors. The CFIA indicates that it will advise stakeholders shortly about what it describes as “new points of interaction” that may arise from the restructuring. In the meantime, regular CFIA contacts should continue to be used for information and enquires.