Canada’s food safety system has been given the lowest audit rating that enables it to keep exporting food to the US.
The rating of “adequate” given to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the lowest passing grade, next is “average” and then “well-performing”.
US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) conducted an on-site audit of Canada's meat inspection system in 2012 but only released results in December 2013 .
The audit showed CFIA is performing "adequate" in maintaining equivalence and meeting the criteria for pre-defined six components.
It was undertaken from 22 October through 9 November 2012 to ensure that Canada's food safety inspection system for meat, poultry, and egg products continued to be equivalent to the US.
Adequately performing countries receive the most comprehensive and frequent equivalence verification audits and the highest frequency of point of entry (POE) reinspections and sampling, said USDA.
A CFIA spokeswoman told FoodQualityNews.com that the country has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world, and is committed to keeping it that way.
“The US Department of Agriculture’s recently released audit confirms that Canada’s meat inspection system is effective. The audit also confirms that all of the issues identified in the audit have been corrected to their satisfaction.”
The audit found the CFIA has to improve oversight of hazard identification at plants, sanitation and treatment of animals.
The CFIA took immediate corrective actions and preventive measures to strengthen its establishment and regulatory oversight.
Scope of the audit included two red meat slaughter establishments, four meat processing establishments producing ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products, and one egg processing establishment.
FSIS visited five government offices, including the CFIA headquarters, and two private laboratories conducting microbiological and chemical residue testing
XL Foods, now JBS Food Canada, was one of the sites visited as the site was involved in one of the largest E.coli recalls from the country .
Canadian audit of US facilities
The CFIA spokeswoman said that similar findings were observed during a recent Canadian audit of US meat facilities which will be publicly released in the coming months.
“Canada regularly audits and is audited by its trading partners. These routine audits help maintain confidence in foreign meat inspection systems.”
The agency said it is re-engineering its Quality Management System (QMS) to measure and monitor the effectiveness and consistency of inspection programs.
It is also strengthening inspector training by launching training initiatives such as a Supervisor School for supervisors to enhance food safety culture through supervision
The government remains committed to the continuous improvement of Canada’s food safety system, said the spokeswoman.
“Over the past year, the government has introduced enhanced controls on E. coli, increased frequency of E. coli testing, enhanced its oversight activities and announced its intention to introduce fines for businesses that fail to respect federal meat safety requirements.”
The previous FSIS audit (2009) identified concerns with CFIA 's oversight of its inspection personnel at local level, especially verification activities on establishment sanitation.
Notices of lntent to Delist (NOIDs) were given to three establishments and another three were delisted by CFIA from those eligible for export to the US in the previous audit.
Between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2012, Canada exported 1,442,314,920 pounds of meat and poultry products to the US of which 68,145,483 pounds were reinspected at Port-of-Entry (POE) into the country.
755, 811 pounds were rejected at POE, 166, 211 pounds were for failures of public health significance because of Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, or fecal contamination.
16,127,747 pounds of egg products presented at POE for re-inspection. 49,802 pounds were rejected for reasons other than food safety and returned to Canada.