The Auditor General's Fall 2013 Report (Report)1,
released November 26, criticized two aspects of Canada's food
management system. The Report identified shortfalls in both
Canada's food recall system and the disaster relief provided to
CFIA communications to stakeholders inadequate
According to the Report, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
(CFIA) did not adequately document the considerations, analysis and
rationale for important food safety decisions, or communicate this
information to key stakeholders when dealing with high-profile
recalls in 2012 managed under emergency procedures. The Report
concluded that the CFIA did not adequately manage the food recall
system and that significant improvements to the food recall system
The Auditor General's investigation found that the
CFIA's emergency response plan for food safety issues was
inadequate. The plan, in draft form since 2004, created new
governance structures when emergency measures were activated. These
governance structures were not well understood by some officials,
which contributed to confusion among both staff and
The Report also found the CFIA did not adequately document the
considerations, analysis and rationale for important food safety
decisions, or communicate this information to key stakeholders,
when dealing with high-profile recalls managed under emergency
procedures. The Auditor General found "many" examples of
incomplete documentation of important decisions and key steps in
the recall process, with the result that the CFIA could not confirm
whether recalls were carried out across Canada and in accordance
with the CFIA's own requirements.
In the Auditor General's review of one high-profile beef
recall, CFIA officials instructed one food distribution company to
recall products from a date that was not subject to the recall. The
Auditor General also found that the rationale for selecting the
five production dates recalled and excluding other dates was not
adequately documented, and could not find adequate evidence
demonstrating the CFIA's analysis and considerations of this
and other important decisions.
The Auditor General stated that although the CFIA acted promptly
to investigate food safety concerns and verified that recalled
products were removed from the marketplace, the CFIA's
follow-up activities after a product had been removed from the
marketplace were deficient.
Disaster relief program for producers not meeting targets
In another part of the Report, the Auditor General concluded
that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) does not adequately
manage the federal role in providing disaster relief to producers
through AgriRecovery, a joint federal and provincial/territorial
program aimed at quickly providing producers with assistance when
Two deficiencies noted were that the AAFC does not streamline
processing for smaller initiatives or track whether initiatives are
meeting timeliness targets. Furthermore, AgriRecovery seldom meets
its 45-day target for assessments and consequently has not
delivered timely assistance for many disease- and drought-related
The CFIA and the AAFC each agreed with the Auditor General's
recommendations relating to their respective operations and advised
what steps were being implemented to address the issues identified
in the Report.
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