The objectives of the policy, explained on the CFIA webpage, are threefold: it accepts voluntary, industry-adapted private certification schemes and recognizes they play a role in achieving compliance with CFIA food safety regulatory requirements; it provides direction on how private certification schemes can fit into the CFIA’s risk-based regulatory framework; and it provides an ideological foundation for broader consideration of private certification schemes within the CFIA framework in future.
Karil Kochenderfer, North American representative of the Global Food Safety Initiative, applauds the policy, saying, “At the end of the day, there’s limited resources for government, just as there are limited resources for industry and consumers. All three are responsible for food safety. If science is guiding government policies, and science is guiding best management practices that industry adopts, we’re doing the same thing. What it recognizes is that as they identify hazards and rank them by risk, the companies that have addressed those issues are less problematic. The limited resources of government can be focused on what are legitimate hazards and risks that are unidentified and are not being addressed by companies.”
The cost of enforcement, says Kochenderfer, is an expense that an atmosphere of training and education could reduce. A subset of companies holding to robust science-based risk policies and best management practices, she says, are much lower on the list of government concern than those that are not engaged in trying to modernize their food-safety approaches. Offering companies the ability to opt into voluntary private certification schemes means regulatory time, energy, and spending will be directed at those businesses that need oversight the most.
Kochenderfer is optimistic that while policy shortcomings may reveal themselves in practice, the pursuit of a higher level of food safety will continue to unite industry, government, and consumers. She believes that continued dialogue between all three parties will inform the success both of projects like private certification schemes and food safety as a whole.
“We have complementary roles,” says Kochenderfer. “Government requires food-safety compliance, and it’s a market prerequisite for industry. If you’ve got complementary objectives that are both driven by science, why not recognize it and work together? There are too few resources to be chasing after issues that are not legitimate: let’s focus on the real threats. That’s what policies like this allow us to do.”
About Jesse Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth is a Montreal-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor covering a variety of different beats. He reports regularly on Indigenous issues for The Nation magazine, serving the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, as well on Information Security issues for SC Magazine. His stories have appeared in a wide variety of other publications, from the Toronto Star and Metro News through AskMen.com and University Affairs. After editing several thousands of pages' worth of food preparation training materials for a hospitality industry group, he grew fascinated with the subject of food safety. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.