An industry-government dialogue on “Canadian food safety auditor competencies” has been kicked off the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition.  Details on the first workshop scheduled for January 2012 will be released shortly.

In announcing the project, the Canadian Supply  Chain Food Safety Coalition said there are two primary objectives:

-To engage the food supply chain, governments and other stakeholders in a dialogue on Canadian food safety auditor competencies  and qualifications in the context of emerging international requirements.

-To facilitate the development of food safety audit and certification infrastructure in Canada for industry-led and government-led voluntary food safety certification schemes and for government-mandated safety programs.

The focus on third-party auditing in Canada comes as the United States implements the new Food Safety and Modernization Act, which directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rely upon outside help for inspections of certain foreign facilities.

Third-party auditing in the U.S. has also come under fire recently due to its role in inspecting Jensen Farms, growers of the cantaloupes implicated in the 28-state Listeria outbreak that has proven to be one of the deadliest in history. Jensen Farms passed an inspection several days before the outbreak began.

The Canadian project is going to look at international trends in “setting competencies and qualifications food safety auditors and others personnel involved in private and government certification and inspection programs.”

“This is an ideal time to hold this dialogue” says Albert Chambers, the coalition’s executive director.  “Canada is experiencing a significant increase in demand for both third party and government certification all along the supply chain as a result of new requirements in the marketplace and new expectations by our trading partners.  Having a sufficient supply of competent food safety auditors and other personnel in place is essential to the continued credibility of our food safety system.”

The U.S. is Canada’s largest trading partner.

The ten-year old Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition is a nonprofit designed to serve as a voice for the food industry and government on food safety issues. A $100,000 contribution for the project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Integrated Food Safety Initiative.

The project steering committee includes representatives of federal and provincial governments, certifications bodies, and on-farm and post-harvest industry associations.