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CFIA looks to modernize

Dr. Ron Wasik takes a look at how the CFIA plans to improve its inspection program


The Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulations came into effect on April 1, 2007, directing all Canadian government agencies to examine their mandates and the regulatory programs they administer to develop “a more effective, efficient and accountable regulatory system.” Little progress appeared to have been made until January 2011, when the Red Tape Reduction Commission began consulting with citizen and business interests. A report of their findings was recently pub¬lished, identifying 2,300 “irritants to business that have clear detrimental effects on growth, competitiveness and innovation.”

The Commission “identified 15 specific systematic reforms involving all 69 regulatory departments and agencies.” A few key reforms include:

• Cut information demands on businesses and increase the use of digital electronic methods.
• Eliminate overlaps in mandates.
• Establish performance standards for all departments that encourage service improvement.
• Build a culture of service excellence and professionalism.
• Implement continuous improvement programs.
• Develop programs to help small businesses deal with government.
• Require agencies to measure the effectiveness of their programs and services provided to small business.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) began a review of its regulatory frameworks for food safety and plant and animal health in the fall of 2011, and is committed to achieving the following objectives within 10 years:

• Aligning its strategic objectives and regulations with the Commission’s recommendations;
• Eliminating unnecessary and burdensome regulations;
• Establishing program priorities on sound risk management, science and technology;
• Implementing legislation and programs that facilitate innovation and support competitiveness.
• Ensuring Canadian citizens and their resources are protected by regulations that are transparent, outcome-based and measurable.

To accomplish these objectives, a number of improve¬ments will be made to the inspection program. This includes complying with the proposals outline in the Final Response to the Weatherill Report; providing best-in-class inspector training for existing and new inspectors; shrink¬ing the eight different food inspection programs into one for all commodities; fine-tuning control measures to match the risk and complexity of the process; and focusing more on validation and less on inspection.

Program improvements will be phased in over a 10- year period. The first phase (one to three years) involves renewing regulations for meat inspection, feed, fertilizer and seeds, and animal traceability. The second phase (three to five years) calls for revising legislation on plant breeders’ rights, agri-food and plant protection. The Fish Inspection, Health of Animals and Seeds Regulations will be updated in the third and final phase (five to 10 years).

Planners have mapped out a six-step process to implement the first phase of the program, with most steps calling for consultations with stakeholder groups. Anyone with an interest in regulatory reform is encouraged to visit www.inspection.gc.ca, or to contact their regional CFIA office to learn more about the modernization plans and provide input.

These regulatory reforms are long overdue and I like what I see. The devil, they say, will be in the details of the programs and legislation that will come out of these modernization initiatives. We will only have ourselves to blame if we remain silent on what we would like to see in a modernized CFIA.

Dr. Ron Wasik, PhD, MBA, is president of RJW Consulting Canada Ltd. Contact him at rwasik@rjwconsultingcanada.com


Deanna Rosolen

Deanna Rosolen

Managing Editor, Food in Canada
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