ARCHIVED - Questions and answers: Integrated Agency Inspection Model (iAIM)

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Why is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) strengthening its approach to inspection?

The world in which the CFIA operates is changing and the CFIA needs to change with it. Canada has one of the best inspection systems in the world.The intent of inspection modernization is to build on this strong foundation, and to be flexible and able to adapt to emerging global and scientific trends.

New technologies, tools and a stronger approach to inspection are needed to properly manage today's risks. The CFIA has designed a single and consistent approach to inspection that will be applied across all regulated commodities, be they food, plant or animal and whether imported, produced domestically or exported.

How is the CFIA strengthening inspection?

The Government of Canada committed $100 million in Budget 2011 over five years for the CFIA to modernize its inspection activities and programs. The CFIA is using this investment to

  • develop a more consistent approach to inspection, allowing the Agency to better manage how it detects and responds to risks
  • increase science capacity in laboratories, and
  • equip its inspectors with advanced training and state-of-the-art tools and technology to better manage and share information.

How does inspection modernization relate to legislative modernization?

Legislative and inspection modernization complement one another. The Safe Food for Canadians Act provides the legal framework for consistent regulatory requirements and inspection approaches across all food. The Agricultural Growth bill, which was tabled in Parliament on December 9, 2013, will help in modernizing plant and animal legislation.

Together, they will provide a more consolidated legislative framework and the basis for a consistent approach to inspecting regulated commodities. They will allow the CFIA to more consistently manage risk, more effectively deliver inspection activities, achieve greater industry compliance and better protect consumers.

Regulatory modernization complements inspection modernization, the new legislation and Agency Transformation. The CFIA is undertaking a review of its regulations for food safety, plant and animal health to improve their consistency, reduce their complexity and strengthen consumer protection. The CFIA will continue to actively engage and consult stakeholders throughout these processes.

With whom has the CFIA been consulting on how it will improve inspection?

The CFIA consulted on the improved food inspection model with CFIA staff, including front line inspectors, bargaining agents, consumers, industry, federal, provincial and territorial government partners, academia as well as international partners. The CFIA is now consulting with an expanded group of stakeholders on the draft integrated Agency inspection model.

Where can I send any questions related to this initiative?

If you have questions about this initiative, you can contact us by email.

How will the new inspection approach be implemented?

The CFIA will phase in the new inspection model in increments through a series of interrelated initiatives involving inspection and legislative modernization as well as business transformation. The CFIA is currently redesigning the business functions necessary to support the core components of the model as they relate to permissions, CFIA oversight, inspection, regulatory response and systems performance. Implementation planning is underway and will be communicated on an ongoing basis via the Agency Transformation page on our website. The CFIA will also continue to actively engage and consult stakeholders about how and when changes to their sector will occur.

How does this benefit consumers?

The new inspection approach proposes clear, consistent rules and better equipped inspectors to promote greater industry compliance with their regulatory obligations, whether related to imported or domestic products. Ultimately, this will mean increased risk prevention for our plant and animal resource base and for the environment and health of Canadians.

How does this benefit industry?

Industry is responsible for producing safe food, protecting our plants, animals and the environment, and for meeting regulatory requirements. The new inspection approach will provide consistent inspection, which will ultimately facilitate compliance. Industry will be able to design systems that comply with all relevant CFIA legislative requirements.

Are additional inspectors or other resources needed as a result of modernizing inspection?

The CFIA does not anticipate requiring new inspectors or other staff as a result of this approach. The intent of modernizing our inspection approach is to make more effective use of our resources; it is not a reduction exercise.

How will this new approach affect the level of CFIA oversight and inspection frequency?

The CFIA has always used a risk-based approach to determine the level of oversight it uses with regulated parties. Under the new inspection model, however, the CFIA will be taking a more systematic and transparent approach to determining oversight activities. The CFIA will continue to verify compliance but the frequency and intensity of oversight activities will now be adjusted based on risk and the regulated party's compliance history.

In other words, regulated parties producing, importing or exporting products that present a higher risk to human, animal or plant health or the environment and/or non-compliant facilities would likely face more frequent inspections or more intensive oversight compared to those that present a lower risk or those that consistently meet their regulatory requirements.

How will this new inspection approach affect the work of front line inspectors?

CFIA inspectors will continue to test and sample product or verify processing conditions as well as verify compliance of specific production lots. Additionally, they will look at industry preventive controls in order to assess their effectiveness.

The CFIA is investing significant funds into training its inspectors in order that they have the knowledge and skills to carry out their duties.

How would this new inspection approach affect establishments that prepare food or grow products sold within provincial borders?

The inspection approach relates to inspection activities under the CFIA inspection statutes. For the most part, these statutes cover only establishments that prepare food for sale across provincial borders (interprovincial trade). Neither the new inspection approach nor the CFIA's inspection model includes establishments that prepare food for sale within provincial borders (intra-provincial trade).

The CFIA is involving its provincial and territorial counterparts throughout the inspection modernization process. Food prepared for sale within provincial borders will continue to be subject to the requirements of the federal Food and Drugs Act.

What is meant by "Permissions" in the integrated model?

As defined in the Glossary of Terms in the model, permission is a formal consent granting legal authorization to a regulated party. The permission can take the form of a permit, an authorization, a certification or a licence.In some cases, regulated parties need permission to operate (e.g., when manufacturing food, operating hatcheries). In other cases, permission is required to move a regulated product (e.g., import or export or moving regulated material out of regulated areas).

Most producers of animals and plants (farmers and fishermen) in Canada will not be subject to the new inspection approach unless they are conducting specific activities that are controlled by regulation. Examples of these types of activities include moving regulated commodities out of regulated areas affected by regulated plant pests or animal diseases, as mentioned above or production of feed with high risk medications.

As well, anyone, including a farmer, who wants to import or export plants or animals across our border on a regular basis will require a preventive control plan and permission (e.g., a permit). Hatcheries, artificial insemination centres, and other currently regulated activities will be inspected using the new approach.

How will the new inspection approach strengthen the CFIA's control over imported and exported food, plants and animals?

As mentioned above, under the new inspection approach, all regulated commodities will be inspected consistently, whether they are imported, prepared domestically or exported. Regulated parties will have to have permission (e.g., a licence) and have a preventive control plan that demonstrates how it is meeting regulatory requirements – and in the case of exporters, meet trade requirements of the foreign country. This may require changes to existing regulations.

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