The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has created special teams to oversee the performance of the country’s food safety system.
Six Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs) will begin targeted verifications at federally registered food establishments such as slaughter and meat production facilities from this month.
The teams with three inspection verification officers will focus on plant sanitation and the effectiveness of a company's response to food recalls.
IVT and inspectors roles
A CFIA spokeswoman told FoodQualityNews.com that existing front-line inspectors will continue to conduct specified daily tasks to verify that a plant’s food safety requirements are being met while the IVTs have a broader oversight role.
“The goal of the IVTs is to verify that a consistent level of thoroughness is applied in all inspections of federally registered food establishments so that Canadian families have full confidence in our food safety system,” she said.
“In addition to making sure that inspections are carried out effectively, the IVTs will help strengthen CFIA’s food safety oversight by identifying best practices and areas for improvement in order to continually improve inspection processes.”
After the Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012 and in response to the panel’s recommendations, the government established IVTs to oversee the performance of the food inspection system.
The CFIA is starting with meat facilities but other commodities will be brought on following the completion of prioritization based on risk.
It is anticipated the IVTs will start conducting verifications in another commodity this fall with a additional four teams operational by the same time.
Results of the verifications will be compiled to identify trends, best practices and areas for improvement.
IVTs will conduct unannounced verifications of CFIA food inspection activities at regulated plants, equal to 160 per year, said the spokeswoman.
“Establishments are selected based on a pre-determined set of criteria which includes the level of risk and compliance history.
“Care has been taken to ensure the criteria are flexible enough to provide a representative sample of how systems are working in different establishments.”
Investment to establish teams
The Government of Canada committed $16m over three years to establish the Inspection Verification Teams.
Since 2006, there has been a net increase of over 750 inspectors, and Economic Action Plan 2014 commits to hiring even more inspectors.
Their activities are over and above regular inspections in facilities across Canada.
Existing front-line CFIA inspectors will continue specified daily tasks to verify that food safety requirements are being met while the Inspection Verification Teams have a broader oversight role.
"These new specialized teams will provide reassurance to consumers by making sure that a consistent level of thoroughness is applied in inspections of federally registered establishments across the country,” saidRona Ambrose, Minister of Health.