The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Food Safety Enhancement Program government/industry steering committee, which includes North American Meat Processor Association’s Canadian Government Affairs Representative Robert de Valk, met last Friday to discuss the progress of various CFIA food safety initiatives.

Since the Listeria outbreak last year, the Canadian Government has committed nearly $500M to improving the delivery of food safety programs by federal departments. Industry representatives, including de Valk, learned CFIA will spend about $223.4 M of the total amount over a number of years in three key areas: prevention, oversight, and rapid response.

In addition, CFIA is continually updating the HACCP program which 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 (FSEP). A revised FSEP manual is now in draft form and represents improvements made as a result of application over the last four years, as well as the food safety incidents that have taken place in Canada and other countries as well.

The revision to the FSEP manual will be subject to industry consultations later this year although the management commitment component, which flows from the Listeria investigative report, may be acted upon sooner. An advisory letter on the management aspect has been sent to industry recently. Completed changes of the FSEP manual are expected to take effect by April 2011.

In general, the committee learned FSEP changes in some areas will simplify food safety record-keeping and improve the overall focus of the program on critical aspects of food safety. Chapter 18 of the CFIA’s Manual of Procedures has been rewritten, particularly the prerequisite program requirements.

Finally, the committee learned 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.