The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking steps to become more accountable to farmers and food processors.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has released new CFIA policies on rights and services that outline its service standards and what the agri-food sector can expect when dealing with the agency.
“We know there is always room to improve,” he said. “We’re taking steps to strengthen communication and interaction between the agency, consumers, producers and the entire value chain so that we can all better work together to ensure safe food and a strong agriculture industry.”
There will also be a new process for businesses to lodge complaints about CFIA and appeal decisions of its inspectors.
The initiative appears to stem from the red tape-cutting program of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, but many farm groups voiced support for it even though details remain sketchy.
The existing CFIA inspection and regulation policy has generated endless complaints over the years because of alleged arbitrariness and “gotcha” approach to enforcement rather than encouraging companies to do a better job and punishing repeat offenders.
Effective regulation, inspection and oversight are vital, said Ritz, but added farmers and processors “need to know for certain that their dealings with a public institution will be carried out predictably, fairly and consistently.”
A more collaborative approach will benefit everyone, said Travis Toews, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“The fact that there will now be a standard in place to ensure the CFIA is accountable for the service they provide will help to elevate stakeholder confidence in the process,” he said.
“We look forward to an enhanced working relationship with the CFIA that will strengthen ties throughout the sector and benefit the important inspection process as a whole.”
Dairy Farmers of Canada said new inspection guides for consumers, producers, processors, animal transporters, importers and exporters will help keep the food supply safe. However, it reminded the government the food industry has to remain competitive and shouldn’t be burdened with demands for more labelling.
Representatives of meat and poultry processors said in a joint statement that the new policy should “help businesses better understand their own role and responsibilities.”