CFIA beefs up system for inspecting meat plants

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking the first step toward what it calls a transformation of the food safety system.


The agency is establishing 10 inspection verification teams (IVTs) to oversee the performance of Canada’s food inspection system.


Six of the teams have already been created and will start conducting targeted spot checks of federally registered meat processing plants this month.


“The goal is to verify that a consistent level of thoroughness is applied in inspections of federally registered facilities across the country so that Canadian families have confidence in our food safety system,” said the CFIA in a news release.


It is one of the first tangible big changes in store for Canada’s food safety system. The transformation comprises stronger safety rules, more effective inspection, commitment to service and more information for consumers.


Front line inspectors will continue to perform their daily tasks, while the IVTs will conduct spot checks to ensure the inspection process is being “consistently and rigorously followed and enforced.” 


Non-compliance with food safety rules that could affect food safety will be dealt with immediately.


Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, is pleased there will be clear lines of decision making at the agency because the existing system had become cumbersome and complicated for food processors.


“There’s going to be almost like a clear decision tree when it comes to enforcement rather than having it open-ended.” 


Bonnett said it is too early to pass judgment on the revamped inspection process, but the IVTs seem like a good idea.


“It’s almost like having a SWAT team ready to address issues,” he said.


The federal government has committed $16 million over the next three years to establish the teams.


The final four teams will be added this fall. Each team has three inspection verification officers, for a total of 30 officers.


The IVTs will conduct 160 verifications per year. They will eventually inspect all federally registered establishments. 


Plants will be chosen based on compliance history, the number and type of corrective action requests and recall history at the plant.


The teams will also ensure that front line inspectors have all the tools they need to do their jobs.


Canadians will see a series of new initiatives from the CFIA over the next two years that will modernize Canada’s food safety system, according to an overview of the CFIA’s Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.