On Farm Food Safety - Canada   Canada

Cow in Pasture
the Canadian Approach

Today, there are four main drivers for on-farm food safety: consumer concerns, government initiatives, customer demands and the actions of Canada’s competitors.   To respond to these demands, and to demonstrate that Canadian food is among the safest in the world, the agricultural community worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to develop on-farm food safety programs.   The farm organizations have also worked with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to establish a process  through which these programs  can be officially recognized by the CFIA for technical soundness and administrative effectiveness.

During the early 1990’s, the national commodity groups and general farm organizations identified the new expectation that farms would need to implement on-farm food safety programs.  They determined that they had the following options: do nothing, wait for government regulation, have programs dictated to them by customers and be faced with competing programs at the farm gate or take the initiative to develop national, commodity-specific on-farm food safety programs for their members. 

The agriculture industry decided to be proactive and began to develop the framework for the Canadian approach and to develop commodity specific, HACCP-based on-farm food safety programs.  This initiative  was based on  a common set of objectives.  Canadian  on-farm food safety programs would be:

• Producer-led, national & accessible
• Commodity-specific
• HACCP-based & auditable
• Consistent, modular & expandable
• Recognized in Canada
• Internationally accepted
• Affordable and practical

The Canadian Approach is resulting in technically sound programs that are based on a rigorous “HACCP-based” approach which is consistent with the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s approach to HACCP.   Almost every project has made use of input from suppliers and customers, and have availed themselves of both reviews by CFIA and by farmers and other experts.  Farm organizations have openly shared information amongst the projects -  both successes and challenges.  As a consequence, the On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) programs that have resulted and are being developed are technically sound, practical, producer friendly and auditable.

Developing a technically sound program is only the first step.  Producers also need to be able to demonstrate to their customers, over time, that they have implemented the program and that they are maintaining it.  The Canadian approach permits them to do this.  National producer organizations are offering certification services to producers.  Farms can be audited, and if they meet the requirements of the program, they can be certified   The credibility of the on-farm auditors is assured through training programs based on Codex and ISO. The administrative management of the certification schemes is being designed to meet specific government criteria which will ensure a common approach to management. 

The Canadian Approach has several strengths, including a consistent approach to program development (voluntary, national, HACCP-based, etc), collaborative action amongst farm groups and a strong industry/government partnership.  The success of on-farm food safety programming in Canada is dependent upon demonstrating the value of these programs to farmers and customers and continuing collaboration amongst national commodity organizations, farm groups and governments.

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