In a move that experts say will bring it more in line with U.S. policy, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has announced that it will post the agency’s compliance and enforcement activities on its website from on its website .
In the past, Canada only made this information public when a company was convicted of food safety violations. On March 16, Canada’s agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, announced that quarterly reports from CFIA will now include the following:
• Food imports that have been refused entry into Canada;
• Federally registered food establishments whose licenses have been suspended, cancelled, or reinstated;
• Notices of violations, with warnings and penalties, including those identifying repeat offenders of animal transport regulations; and
• Names of companies that have returned to compliance with food safety regulations, along with their reinstatement dates.
“This will give our inspectors another tool in the toolbox to shine the light of transparency on repeat offenders and companies that try and import unsafe food,” Ritz said in a news release.
John Marcy, PhD, extension food scientist and professor in the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, said that most of what Canada will be doing is already happening here in the U.S. “Anything that’s considered to be public information, like license suspension, usually is made public,” he said. “Things of a regulatory nature, like citations, typically aren’t made public, nor do they need to be.”
Individual citations or noncompliance reports that are generated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are technically subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, Dr. Marcy said. “But by the time they’re redacted, it’s not informative anymore, and I can’t tell you that that information is beneficial to the public anyway,” he added.
He praised the Canadian government for the new policies. “It does seem to add a new layer of transparency, which is very important. The consumer has to have trust in what they’re eating.”