Food safety learning in Canada is fragmented and there is much duplication of effort and expense. Today, every organization develops its own employee training program, in-house courses, and/or purchases courses from a variety of outside sources. Yet the foundational elements of science, technology, practices and outcomes are common across the food sector.
The need for a national, co-ordinated food safety training model that would better align industry, academic institutions and governments has emerged as a common theme across the food safety value chain. In response to this need, for over 18 months various food safety stakeholders have been discussing the joint development of a not-for-profit organization called Safe Food Canada – The Learning Partnership (SFC-TLP).
Consultations on a concept paper produced in June 2014 for SFC-TLP indicated strong cross-sector support for this initiative, and in August 2014 the entity was incorporated with initial funding from both academic and industry partners.
The Board of Directors will consist of 12 members and two observers from the federal and provincial governments. To date these are:
- Dr. Ann Brackenridge, director, Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory and Research and Development, Cargill.
- Dr. Sylvain Fournaise, vice-president, Food Safety and Technical Services, Olymel.
- Dr. Doug Freeman, dean, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatchewan.
- Lone Jespersen, director, Food Safety & Strategy, Maple Leaf Foods.
- Dr. Gisèle Lapointe, director, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Université Laval.
- Dr. Michael Liewen, senior vice-president, Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, Loblaw.
- Mr. Barry Mehr, vice-president, Food and Agriculture, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures.
- Dr. H.J. (Tom) Thompson, president, Olds College, Alberta
- Dr. Michael Trevan (Chair), head and professor, Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba.
- Observers: Paul Mayers, vice-president, Policy and Programs Branch, CFIA; Jamie Curran, ADM Food Safety and Technology Sector, Alberta.
A further three nominations are being sought. The overriding consideration for the appointment of members to the Board is their ability to devote time and energy to their role, and their commitment to the mission of SFC-TLP. Members are appointed for their knowledge of and commitment to food safety education and training, and not because they are representing a particular sector or faction. A wide range of backgrounds and expertise must be represented on the Board. The SFC-TLP is also actively seeking members to join its Advisory Council, and is working at identifying a CEO.
SFC-TLP is actively collaborating with its U.S. counterpart, the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), to obtain feedback, evaluate ideas, share lessons learned, develop quality standards for training, and build on their experience with competency-based curriculum frameworks. This collaboration will guide the SFC-TLP toward a global approach to food safety learning, leading to programs that will:
- Help provide safer food for Canadians and other consumers around the world and allow for greater consumer confidence in Canadian food products;
- Increase the number of food safety professionals and workers with the knowledge and skills needed by industry and government;
- Build the foundation to ensure the quality of food safety education and training continuously improves;
- Clarify career path options for food safety professionals and workers, and provide greater ease of skill transfer;
- Support small businesses by providing no-cost or low-cost training material and tools (such as introduction to food safety requirements and best practices);
- Avoid fragmentation and duplication of training programs, reduce costs to individual businesses and offer better value for training investments;
- Facilitate pathways for students from education to careers; and
- Increase mobility between workers in the public sector and private sector.
With SFC-TLP in place, the entire food safety value chain will have the same understanding of food safety training requirements. Food safety workers across Canada will be trained on the basis of a common learning foundation and against a consistent set of competencies. Workers and managers in industry, and regulators, policy makers, and auditors will, in time, come to speak the same language of food safety with common understanding.
SFC-TLP plans to officially launch this spring. Anyone interested in learning more about the organization is encouraged contact Dr. Trevan, interim chairman, at Michael.Trevan@umanitoba.ca.