The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA’s) Food Safety Enhancement Program government/industry steering committee met last week to discuss the progress of various CFIA food safety initiatives.

In response to a 2008 Listeria outbreak among Maple Leaf Foods customers, the Canadian Government has committed nearly $500 million to improving the delivery of food safety programs by federal departments.  The Weatherill Report, an independent investigation into the outbreak released in July 2009, provided the Canadian government with 57 recommendations to further enhance food safety oversight in Canada.  

In September 2009, the Government committed to act on all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill Report, and at last week’s meeting pledged to spend approximately $223.4 million in three key areas:  reducing food safety risks through prevention, enhancing surveillance and oversight, and improving emergency response.

CFIA is also continually updating the HACCP programs all federally inspected meat and poultry plants must adopt and follow.  CFIA has laid out its food safety approach in its Food Safety Enhancement Program.  A revised program manual is currently in draft form and represents improvements made as a result of application over the last four years, as well as food safety incidents that have taken place in Canada, and elsewhere.
Revisions to the Food Safety Enhancement Program manual will be subject to industry consultations later this year, although the management commitment component, which flows from the Wetherill Report, may be acted upon sooner.

Completed changes of the Food Safety Enhancement Program manual are expected to take effect by April 2011.

At last week’s meeting the steering committee learned program changes in some areas will simplify food safety record keeping and improve overall focus of the program on critical aspects of food safety.  The committee also learned that CFIA has engaged outside consultants to assess the agency’s use of resources to deliver food safety programs. The results of this audit will be known later this year.