PI-005 : Chapter 2 – The Seed Potato Inspector
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In the present version of this chapter, contact information, references to specific organizations within the CFIA, and references to other documents or policies may not be current. This information will be updated at the time of the next revision of this chapter. Please contact the CFIA for any questions or further information.
Table of Contents
- 2.1 Objective
- 2.2 Definitions
- 2.3 General Knowledge
- 2.4 Legislative Authority of a Seed Inspector
- 2.5 Inspector/Grower Relations
- 2.6 Conflict of Interest
- 2.7 Safety
- 2.8 Cross-Utilization
- 2.9 Enforcement and Compliance
- 2.10 Methods of Compliance
The inspector, designated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) serves as a direct liaison between the seed potato grower or his or her representative and the certification agency. The inspector is an integral part of the seed potato production framework. Inspections are conducted to verify compliance with the Seeds Act, Plant Protection Act and their respective regulations administered by the CFIA. Compliance with the CFIA's acts and regulations is mandatory.
This chapter defines the roles and responsibilities of a seed potato inspector, and provides guidelines used for the enforcement of compliance measures necessary for the CFIA to carry out its regulated mandate.
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency; established by section 3 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act;
- The state of conformity with the law;
- The action taken by the CFIA, through a prosecution or an administrative monetary penalty, where applicable, to obtain compliance;
- The testimony of witnesses and the presentation of documents and objects or things which a court will permit to be used as proof in legal proceedings.
2.3 General Knowledge
To conduct effective inspections, technical knowledge of and the ability to determine compliance to the regulations which govern seed potato inspection and certification are necessary. Furthermore, inspectors must be competent in variety identification, and plant disease detection and identification. Inspectors are required to have an enhanced knowledge of legislation and CFIA structure including:
- The Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II,
- Plant protection and seed potato policy directives,
- Additional pertinent provincial and federal plant health regulations, and
- The organizational structure of the CFIA with corresponding lines of communication for efficient information flow to the proper authority.
Field inspection is a major aspect of seed potato certification. For this, it is necessary for inspectors to have a thorough knowledge of the varietal characteristics of potato varieties, for the identification of the crop variety and varietal mixtures. The inspector must also become familiar with symptoms, life cycles of common and quarantine pests and diseases injurious to potatoes. Furthermore, the inspector must recognize and differentiate between diseases and abnormalities which may be due to nutritional, moisture or temperature problems.
Plant and tuber sampling for varietal identification and disease diagnosis and detection is an important inspector function. Therefore, thorough understanding of seed potato sampling methods, protocols and equipment is required. Sample collection is critical to maintain continuity and integrity of the system. Information contained in this manual and the directives listed in Appendix A adequately describe protocols to follow. In addition, some background in seed potato laboratory testing procedures is advantageous to understand the terminology and process of certification.
The inspector must have the ability to deal tactfully and effectively with growers, shippers, fellow inspectors and other industry personnel. Discretion and initiative are needed to handle problems that arise in the course of duties, and to know which ones should be passed along to supervisory staff for discussion and action.
The inspector should be acquainted with general legal and investigation procedures. The inspector is responsible for taking good notes, and collecting evidence and documents which may be required when legal actions are undertaken.
When the supervisor determines an inspector is proficient in field and tuber inspections he/she will notify their regional program officer who will arrange for an audit to take place. This is designed to assess the ability of the inspector to perform the required duties rather than to scrutinize their work.
The audit generally consists of written questions and observation of field inspection and documentation procedures. The audit may be performed by the area program officer or by a person designated by the area officer (e.g. in New Brunswick, audits are done by Seed Potato Inspection Standards Supervisor). Audits should not be feared. They are in place to determine what type of further training may be necessary, if any, and to make sure every inspector is doing a consistent job.
All inspectors are subject to periodic audits regardless of their experience. Audits are there to ensure that inspectors are current with new requirements, policies, and regulations. Audits should be performed on all inspectors regularly (3-4 year intervals) or depending on the needs determined by the area program officer. National audits are done systematically to ensure consistent application of the regulations across the country.
2.4 Legislative Authority of a Seed Inspector
Empowered under sections 6, 7, and 8 of the Seeds Act, the inspector is granted statutory authority to administer the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations Part II.
In general, an inspector may at any reasonable time enter any premise where there is reason to believe seed potatoes are located, examine labels, packages, or seed potatoes contained in those packages, and take samples. The inspector may require the person responsible for, or an employee of, the premise to produce any documents pertaining to seed potatoes for the purpose of administering the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II. The person in charge of the premise has the right to ask the inspector to produce an identification card to verify designation by the President of the CFIA for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the statute. It is the inspector's responsibility to show his/her designation upon request. In turn, the person responsible for the premise and the employees are required to provide all reasonable assistance to the inspector in the conduct of his/her official duties.
When an inspector believes on reasonable grounds that the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations Part II have been violated, he/she may detain the seed in question or take other appropriate action. Refer to Subsection 2.9 Complaints, Inspections and Enforcement in this chapter for details regarding detentions. For additional information, inspectors should refer to the CFIA Enforcement and Compliance Policy.
When a person has been convicted of an offence under the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations Part II, subject to direction by the court, the inspector has authority to secure for forfeiture to the Crown, seed packages, labels and any other evidence which have been found in violation of the Seeds Act and Seed Regulations Part II.
Any person obstructing, hindering an inspector or making false or misleading verbal or written statements while an inspector is engaged in carrying out his/her duties pursuant to the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II, that person is in violation of Section 8 of the Seeds Act.
It should be emphasized that inspectors who abuse the authority given to them are a discredit not only to the CFIA, but to the Public Service in general. Indiscretion and poor judgement on the part of one individual could jeopardize the working relationships between other public servants and the agricultural industry.
The inspector is reminded, of the importance in carrying out his/her official duties in a fair and professional manner. The use of tact and diplomacy are invaluable tools for the establishment and maintenance of effective work relationships and good public relations. In situations involving enforcement action, the inspector should always explain the nature of the discrepancy/lack of compliance to the affected party and be open to the acceptance of proper mitigative measures.
2.5 Inspector/Grower Relations
Seed potato inspectors, by the very nature of their duties, have to deal with growers and their representatives on an ongoing basis and thus require effective public relations skills. Generally, most people, if courteously treated and kept well informed will understand the necessity of seed laws and respect the duties of those employed to enforce them. Attitude can be influential in how inspectors achieve success in compliance. Not all situations involve direct enforcement actions, however an inspector should be ready to use them when compliance is not met.
In many ways a good inspector can be measured, not by the number of enforcement actions, but by the level of understanding and recognition growers have for the inspector's duties.
The inspector should endeavour to maintain cordial relations with all segments of the industry and their employees without favouritism or the appearance thereof. Friendship between inspectors and members of the trade is not prohibited; but, impartiality should be maintained and there should be a clear separation between business and pleasure.
The inspector must have confidence in enforcing the Seeds Regulations Part II during an inspection. No inspector should think that he/she is helping a member of the industry by not fully administering all facets of the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations Part II. It should be remembered that the prime mandate of the inspector is to enforce the acts and Seeds Regulations Part II. Any concession given to a receiver of CFIA services could give the impression that breaching the regulations is allowed, setting a precedent for the future. Enforcing the regulations differently, erodes confidence in the national program both domestically and internationally and subjects the CFIA to criticism. No inspector has authority to grant concessions of any kind.
An inspector must not accept favours from clients or industry representatives. Gifts of money or other favours should be respectfully declined, as they imply that some favour may be expected in the future by the giver. Gestures of goodwill should not influence an inspector's ability to be autonomous and maintain independence on the job. The inspector, who is dedicated to his/her work and is thoroughly acquainted with the details of his/her work, gains the confidence of clients and avoids criticism.
2.5.1 Code of Ethics
An inspector must strive to:
- Maintain an independent objective position;
- Treat all individuals fairly and equitably;
- Maintain integrity and not be dissuaded by opinion;
- Keep client and sensitive information confidential;
- Be concise and accurate in reporting;
- Show tact and diplomacy; and
- Be open and honest.
2.5.2 Code of Conduct
An inspector must:
- Be friendly and courteous at all times, whether answering the phone, writing letters or meeting the public;
- Be dressed appropriately for the job (i.e., clean coveralls, etc.);
- Always carry an inspector's identification card as proof of designation;
- Provide identification when on someone's premises. State the purpose, request assistance, and report the results of inspection before leaving;
- Answer questions relating to the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations Part II promptly. If necessary consult the regulations or refer to the appropriate authority;
- Keep updated on new regulatory or procedural developments;
- Avoid discussing discrepancies with co-workers in public;
- Maintain confidentiality regarding seed potatoes produced by different growers;
- Accept constructive criticism from supervisors regarding work practices and be willing to try to work with the supervisor to identify measures to improve;
- Avoid critical comments about his/her duties in public. If they are legitimate, discuss them with his/her supervisor.
2.6 Conflict of Interest
As a public servant, transparency is important so that perceptions of conflict of interest do not arise. Whether direct or indirect the seriousness of the conflict cannot be emphasized enough. Full disclosure of all business dealings are required when any potential of conflict is present.
No inspector shall inspect any seed potatoes in which he/she is financially interested, either directly or indirectly. Direct interest includes ownership of, or CFIA control over, the product. Indirect interest includes business relations with the owner of the product such as employee, partner or agent and any personal relationship with the owner, foreman, grader or other employee which may raise a question as to the impartiality of the inspector. For further information consult the CFIA Conflict of Interest Guidelines.
Safety on the worksite is a prime concern within the Public Service of Canada and it is the responsibility of the inspector to determine when safe or unsafe conditions exist. This situation could arise if insufficient assistance is provided by the applicant or the inspection site is hazardous due to pesticide use, forklift traffic, fumes or any other reason. All inspection staff should be prepared to spend long hours in the sun during field inspection and it is recommended that each inspector wear protective gear such as sun screen and a hat to protect against sun injury, or rain gear depending on the weather.
If an inspector decides that conditions are unsafe, they are to immediately discuss the problem with the responsible person (i.e. the plant manager or grower) at the inspection site. If this does not result in satisfactory action, the inspector is to advise the applicant that inspection services will be withdrawn until such time as conditions are improved. The inspector should contact his/her supervisor as soon as possible to discuss the situation before withdrawing services. Inspectors should consult with their local Health and Safety Committee for information regarding workplace safety.
It is becoming more and more common for inspectors to be trained in more than one inspection program. As a result, seed potato inspectors may also be involved in fresh fruit and vegetable, processed products, plant health or even livestock and poultry inspection activities. Training to perform various inspection activities is vitally important and inspectors must devote the necessary time to become certified in each program component he/she delivers.
It is recognized that cross-utilization takes extra effort, but there are benefits to be gained. It is generally recognized that efficiencies result when an inspector is cross-utilized in related areas. For example, an export of table stock potatoes may require both a Grade Certificate (Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program) and a Phytosanitary Certificate (Plant Health Program). Both these inspections could be performed simultaneously by a single cross-utilized inspector. In addition, the cross-utilized inspector enhances his/her chances for career advancement due to an expanded knowledge base.
Another point to consider involves disinfection between seed and table potato operations. It is the inspector's responsibility to adequately clean and disinfect his/herself and all equipment and vehicle to minimize any potential spread of pathogens from one farm unit to another.
If at any time, an inspector feels uncomfortable doing an inspection he/she should immediately contact his/her supervisor for assistance.
2.9 Enforcement and Compliance
The term compliance means the state of conformity with the law. The CFIA secures compliance with its Acts and Regulations through inspections and the use of statutory powers and authorities bestowed on officials. Inspectors may also use education, publication of information and consultation with affected parties when responding to non compliance.
The term enforcement means the action taken by the CFIA, through a prosecution or an administrative monetary penalty, where applicable to obtain compliance.
Enforcement and compliance activities include:
- Inspection, monitoring and auditing to verify compliance;
- Responding to complaints of non compliance;
- Investigations of violations and offences;
- Mandatory recall orders;
- Refusal to issue or renew licences, registrations or permits;
- Suspension, revocation or cancellation of licences, registrations or permits;
- Prosecutions; and
- Administrative monetary penalties, where applicable.
In Canada's legal system, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of an offence he/she is alleged to have committed. The success or failure of a prosecution depends entirely on the quality of the evidence presented in court. The inspector may be asked to collect evidence for a court case. Evidence may include the testimony of witnesses and the presentation of documents and objects or things which the court will permit to be used as proof (of facts) in legal proceedings. Evidence may be considered to take one of the three basic forms:
- Real: objects or things which have been identified and shown to be related to the case.
- Documentary: writings related to the case (e.g. letters, certificates, permits, invoices, shipping bills, cheques, etc.).
- Testimonial: the oral statement of a witness, usually under oath.
There are also certain types of evidence which are usually not accepted by the courts. A good example of this is hearsay evidence (i.e. second-hand information).
While it is difficult to take the time to record events, there is no overestimating the value of accurate, complete notes. A methodical approach becomes habit and assists in developing the ability to observe. Notes should be maintained in sufficient detail by the inspector for completeness. In putting together an investigation, each part of the investigation is recorded in chronological order (i.e. proper dates and sequence of events). A well kept notebook reflects favourably on the inspector. Some guidelines for note keeping are listed below:
- Record notes in pen and try to retain one colour of ink (i.e. blue or black).
- Erasing is not permitted. As in legal documents, errors should be corrected by drawing a line through the mistake and entering the correct item above and initial and date.
- There should be no pages missing from the notes or portions of pages torn off which imply pertinent details may be omitted.
- Notes should be reviewed thoroughly in advance of Court and permission sought from the Court to use the notebook. Pages for use in court should be separated by elastic bands to make them easy to access and confine discussion to the specific pages identified.
2.9.2 Powers of the Inspector
Inspectors' powers are limited to those defined in the acts one is responsible for administering. Inspectors should become aware of the detailed provisions of the acts to perform their duties. It is especially important that inspectors have a grasp of the distinctions which exist between the various acts and the associated legal responsibilities. It is essential to be aware of the powers of an inspector and care must be taken to use these powers within the parameters set out in the acts and respective regulations being enforced.
The Seeds Act provides inspectors with the power:
- To enter. The inspector can enter a premises at any reasonable time, which normally means during regular business hours. Although the inspector needs no search warrant, he/she must have good reason to believe that there are articles or products on the premises to which the Seeds Act applies;
- To examine or inspect. The inspector has the power to examine those articles or products found on the premises which relate to the enforcement of this Act;
- To open packages. The inspector has the power to open packages which she/he reasonably believes contain articles or products to which this Act applies;
- To take samples. In many cases the inspector is unable to determine whether a product is in violation of the Act without a laboratory analysis. The Seeds Act gives the inspector the authority to take samples for analysis;
- To examine documents. Books, records, bills of lading, and the like may be examined under the Act, provided that the inspector reasonably believes that such documents contain information relevant to the enforcement of the Act;
- To make copies. The Seeds Act allows the inspector to make copies of documents relevant to the investigation. Originals may be preferable as evidence in court, but the inspector has no power to seize documents. Originals may be obtained if they are provided voluntarily;
- To seize and detain. Products in violation of the Act or its regulations can be seized and detained which will effectively deprive a person of his/her property. In most cases, this action should not be undertaken until the inspector has had a chance to consult with his/her supervisor.
2.9.3 Inspection and Investigation
Inspectors are an important resource in the identification of contravention of the laws and for recommending subsequent enforcement and compliance action. They are encouraged and empowered to take investigative action beyond their inspection roles. Inspectors' roles are twofold. They are responsible for:
- Conducting inspections to verify compliance; and
- Conducting investigations in response to non compliance in order to recommend further compliance measures or enforcement action.
When conducting inspections for compliance, inspectors will use the administrative authorities provided to them under the appropriate legislation. These may include the authority to enter and inspect, to open containers, examine regulated products or documents, conduct tests, take samples or seize and detain products. Inspectors must verify that all requirements are met in order to determine if the product is in compliance.
Upon completion of an inspection, inspectors may have reason to believe an offence or violation has occurred. This decision can only be made following the completion of a thorough inspection to verify the facts required to establish non compliance. Investigations involve the gathering of evidence and information from a variety of sources relevant to a suspected violation. Should an inspector be involved in an investigation, it is most often in consultation with investigation specialists. The role of investigation specialist will be to provide advice, guidance and assistance to inspectors conducting investigations.
A thorough investigation requires much effort on the part of the investigator. Listed below are some helpful guidelines:
- Respond promptly to a complaint;
- Remain alert and pay attention to details in order to make effective observations;
- Prior to conducting any interviews, define the information required for the situation being investigated (e.g. who, what, where, when, why and how). Once that is established an interview should be arranged to the mutual agreement of both parties. Interviewing is a specialized skill which inspectors should learn to use effectively.
2.9.4 Responding to Complaints
Complaints, however minor, should not be ignored. These complaints may be received from anyone associated to the seed potato sector or even consumers. Following notification, inspection staff must follow the complaint and gather information on the alleged or suspected offence which will be used as evidence to prove or disprove the allegations. Each complaint must be investigated, evaluated and corrective action undertaken without delay. Consultations with supervisors and experienced staff or forming investigative teams should assist in determining the course of action to take.
Investigative work demands careful observation, interviewing, memory and note taking. It is essential for the inspector to proceed with special diligence, because of the possibility which exists in an investigation that a prosecution may ensue. It should be mentioned that although court cases do arise they should be considered the exception rather than the rule.
2.10 Methods of Compliance
There are four methods available to ensure compliance with the acts for which the CFIA is responsible:
- Seizures and Detentions
Hands-on inspection is the most common method used to promote compliance. Periodic inspections of plants, storages or retail stores allow the CFIA to spot check for violations and demonstrate the CFIA's commitment to enforcing the requirements of the law. Inspections are also an excellent tool to enhance client education. By answering questions, explaining the regulations and the factors being regulated, and demonstrating proper techniques, inspectors reinforce the importance of adhering to the regulations and the necessity to produce a high quality product.
When violations are encountered, which may be a result of ignorance on the part of the shipper, dealer or farmer, in most cases a careful explanation of the requirements of the law and applying acceptable corrective measures should suffice to prevent any reoccurrence. In other situations warnings may be necessary.
Two types of warnings currently exist within the CFIA:
- A simple verbal warning which explains that unless the product or procedure in violation is corrected, then further action will be taken.
- A formal written warning is of a more serious nature and is generally produced by the program officer in consultation with the inspector. Sent by courier or registered mail, the warning specifies the nature of the violation in question. It also explicitly advises the individual that unless the situation is rectified or if the violation is repeated, a prosecution may ensue.
The severity of the non-compliance will influence what type of warning takes place.
2.10.3 Seizures and Detentions
Under most of the acts administered by the CFIA, seizures and detentions may be employed both as enforcement tools and as a way of gathering evidence. Seizure is a method of enforcing compliance which may be called for in some circumstances, especially where quarantine pests are encountered; but it must be used with caution. In most situations the affected party will be notified of the seizure/detention and may be given the opportunity to bring the product into compliance. Careful education of industry personnel is preferable in many cases, especially when the violation was a result of ignorance and if there is no danger to health or safety. If the individual deliberately ignores the law, a prosecution or a series of prosecutions may be the only alternative. It should be stressed that the inspector must always consult with his/her supervisor prior to taking action on a seizure and/or detention unless clearly defined violations occur. Nevertheless supervisory personnel should be immediately advised of the situation.
The object of inspection and investigation work is not prosecution, but compliance. In general, all other methods should be attempted prior to recommendation for prosecution. Clear evidence in support of a deliberate attempt to violate the law might well initiate prosecution action without prior warning. In any case, the final decision on prosecution should be a group decision held in consultation with management and the area compliance officer. Prosecution is a very slow process, but if the case is well prepared and presented in court, it can be an excellent deterrent.
Adverse publicity following a conviction can certainly motivate individuals to comply with the regulations. The end result of a court case may not only be useful in gaining the compliance of the accused, but succeed in industry wide recognition of CFIA's ability to maintain fairness in the marketplace.
Inspectors should refer to the CFIA Enforcement and Compliance Policy if they require more information.
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