There is an initiative on by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to improve food safety by targetting high-risk commodities and importers.
That was one of the key messages from Michel LaBrosse, the CFIA’s director of Import Control Division, at I.E. Canada’s 5th Annual Food Forum held in Mississauga, Ont. in February.
Most of Canada’s food is imported
As LaBrosse explained more than 65 per cent of all food in Canada is imported or contains imported ingredients. And the majority of importers are “good corporate citizens.” But it’s that one to two per cent of them who are not and they represent 98 per cent of the food safety risk in Canada.
It’s this huge scope that led the CFIA to launch the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan last year. The aim is to update its regulatory processes to address the new realities of the global economy.
There are three areas of focus:
• preventing problems in the first place;
• targeting the products that present the highest risk; and
• providing rapid response to problems when they occur.
The role of the importer in all this, said LaBrosse, is to ensure the food they import is safe. “Importers need to have a quality management system in place and they need to recognize that this is their responsibility,” he said.
Through the initiative the CFIA will improve the availability of information. For instance, during the melamine scandal it wasn’t just about infant formula. Dairy ingredients are also in imported candies and cookies, but the CFIA didn’t know what percentage of dairy ingredients were found in these other products.
Other objectives include tracking imported food to identify the origin and destination and be able to do this quickly so as not to impede the trade of safe food.
There are about 1,500 commodities affected and those are foods regulated solely under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. The CFIA will identify and add commodities to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) filter list over the next two to three years in different phases.
Importers and brokers who import any of these commodities will need to apply for an electronic data interchange (EDI) profile if they don’t already have one. The commodities will need to be coded with the Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes) and corresponding OGD extensions. They will need to also include country of origin of the product and the destination. The CBSA will forward the EDI information to the CFIA for electronic release.
Notices were sent out in September 2009 giving importers and brokers six-month notice of the implementation of the first 14 commodities. A notice will be sent again this spring for phase two. The CFIA expects that future phases will be implemented on a quarterly basis.