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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (French: Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments), or CFIA, was created in April 1997, to integrate inspection and related services previously provided through the activities of four federal government departmentsAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada and Industry Canada. The establishment of the CFIA consolidated the delivery of all federal food safety, animal health, and plant health regulatory programmes.

Contents

Role and responsibilities

The agency is part of the larger federal public service. According to the CFIA statement of values, science is the basis for regulatory decisions but the need to consider other factors is recognized.[1]

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is responsible for the CFIA. The Minister of Health is responsible for establishing policies and standards for the safety and nutritional quality of food sold in Canada; the administration of those provisions of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act[2] that relate to public health, safety and nutrition; and for assessing the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to food safety.

Through the enforcement of various acts and regulations,[3] the CFIA works to protect Canadians from preventable health risks and provide a fair and effective food, animal and plant regulatory regime that supports competitive domestic and international markets.

One of the main acts and regulations that CFIA uses is the Food and Drugs Act, which was last updated in 1985. There have been ongoing regulatory amendments brought forward with the most recent attempt at modernizing the Food and Drugs Act was the introduction of Bill C-51.

Various legal interpretations have affected the operational priorities of CFIA. In particular, the Food and Drug Act and its Regulations prescribe that entry to a food processing facility must be based on reasonable grounds. As a result, the CFIA must rely on the consumer or industry complaints and advice from Health Canada to provide reasonable grounds for entry.

Other Acts and Regulations do specify inspection requirements and for certain trade requirement, the need to register with CFIA to conduct business. Such companies are termed "registered establishments" as opposed to those "non-federally resgistered establishments" that fall solely under the Food and Drugs Act. While the Food and Drugs Act provide for core food safety standards, many companies opt to use third party standards such as HACCP or ISO in order to meet client specified standards. These standards are closely adhered to due to the potential loss of business.

The Food and Drugs Act does not provide the power to recall food products and all recalls are done on a voluntary basis. However, Section 19 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act provides authority for the Minister of Agriculture to order a recall, where there is reasonable grounds that the product poses a risk to public, animal or plant health. [4] CFIA rates their recalls in three classifications.

"Class I" is a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

"Class II" is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.

"Class III" is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences.

Public notification of Class I and sometimes class II recalls is done by the CFIA. Public notice of low risk recalls are not done but recall information is available through the Access to Information process.[5]

Recall classifications are conducted by 'Food Safety Investigation Recall with the aid of the Food Safety Investigation Program

The Food and Drugs Act does not have any requirements for domestic manufacturers to notify the agency of their existence but companies generally require provincial registrations or municipal licenses to operate. Provincial authorities and local public health units carry out inspections and work with the CFIA to manage food safety risks.

There were approximately 10,475 importers in Canada in 2005. These importers accounted for over 20 billion kilograms of food products every year (Data provided through Customs Canada). There is no requirement in the Food and Drugs Act for importers to directly notify the CFIA of their existence but all commercial importers must have an import/export account with Canada Border Services Agency who refers food, animal and plant imports to the CFIA as required.

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August 2008 listeria outbreak

On August 27, 2008 the Globe and Mail reported "a leaked Conservative cabinet document outlined plans for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to give the food industry a greater role in the inspection process. However, some of the plans have been in place since March 31, 2008 according to a CFIA manager and an official from the union that represents the federal inspectors."[6]

"At the Maple Leaf plant behind the listeria outbreak, a single federal inspector was relegated to auditing company paperwork and had to deal with several other plants, the manager and the union official said, contradicting the impression that officials had left last week that full-time watchdogs were on-site. Under the new system, federal inspectors do random product tests only three or four times a year at any given plant. And meat packers are required to test each type of product only once a month. Under the old system, inspectors had a more hands-on role on the plant floor, did more of the tests themselves and had more freedom to investigate, said former CFIA inspector."[6]. The system of inspections have evolved from TIPS, MCAP to the current CVS.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper "rejected any suggestions that the federal government is not doing enough." "The Conservative government's changes are the subject of heated controversy as academics and the opposition express concerns over the few details that have emerged so far. The 2008 budget indicated the CFIA was asked to find savings to pay for new programs. The leaked document indicated savings would be found by transferring some meat-inspection duties to industry."[6]

To date there are:

  • "29 Confirmed cases of listeriosis across Canada (22 in Ontario, four in B.C., two in Quebec and one in Saskatchewan)."
  • "30 Suspected cases (16 in Ontario, 10 in Quebec and four in Alberta) "
  • "6 Confirmed deaths caused by the outbreak (all in Ontario)"
  • "11 Suspected deaths (Six in Ontario, two in Alberta, one in B.C., one in Sask. and one in Quebec)"[6]

References

  1. ^ CFIA statement of values
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Canadian Food Inspection Act
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ a b c d Tu Thanh Ha, Bill Curry, Anne Mcilroy (2008-08-27). "Inspectors failed to adopt more rigorous U.S. measures". Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080827.wmeat27/BNStory/National/home. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  

See also

External links


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