The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, with the financial support of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), says it is “proudly” releasing a study of Canada’s food safety regulations in comparison with those from around the industrialized world.
The report is intended to identify emerging trends that should be taken into account when the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), which came into force in January 2019, are reviewed over the next few years.
A Dalhousie release says the SFCR requires food businesses to implement a preventive control plan in alignment with current international developments in food safety. Preventive controls are a proactive strategy that seeks to avoid problems before they occur.
By looking at current international standards, a set of conclusions are presented, and five trends have been identified as priorities for consideration.
Dalhousie outlines recommendations that should be considered:
The report urges that, more than ever during the current global pandemic, Canada must address its response capacity to food safety for international trade as related to zoonotic disease. Zoonoses can pose greater risk in some food sub-sectors, namely in meats, animal products, and seafood.
Inspection for small-and-medium enterprise food businesses
The report notes that in many of the inspection studies reviewed, there is a combination of government-mandated inspection and emphasis on self-directed inspections for food business operators. Some of the literature highlighted the shortcomings of a good amount of self-directed inspection, especially for small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), as experienced in the European Union (EU), and recognized as a risk by the SFCR.
Data management and analytics for food safety
The management of data systems and analytics continues to be one of the most rapidly evolving elements of food trade and food safety, adds the report. As outlined above, leading companies, in leading jurisdictions, from the USA to the EU, have invested into the frontiers of applications such Bayesian statistics, deep and machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) , Next Generation Sequencing, and social media monitoring.
Food safety packaging innovation
Innovation in packaging is one of the fastest evolving sub-sectors of the food industry, from adaptive to active, responsive, and modified atmosphere. The report stresses the study of this trend is valuable in the pandemic aftermath as more Canadians are buying ready-to-eat foods, and packaged prepared foods.
Food safety organizational culture, training and continual improvement
One of the strongest themes throughout the literature reviewed is the importance (and challenge) of food safety training, education, and continual improvement at the level of organizational culture (most often in small food businesses). Food safety management systems, directed by food business operators, and their staff, have a tall order. There often needs to be awareness of and compliance with local, regional, national and at times international standards of practice.
“Our new regulations are forward looking and represent a vast improvement from what the CFIA had to work with before 2019. But we always need to adapt since risks change over time”, said Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Director of the Lab and co-author of the report.
The focus on these 5 trends is set in the context of Canada’s SFCR evolution within the outcome-based approach of the Act and its Regulations. The goal to building a robust perspective upon which Canada will be able to take notice of and be future-ready in relation to changing trade, technology and business practices related to food safety.
“The CFIA appreciates the work done by the research team,” said Tammy Switucha, Chief Food Safety Officer for Canada and Executive Director, Food Safety and Consumer Protection Directorate, CFIA. “Studies such as these inform the work we are doing in support of a strong and innovative food safety regulatory framework.”
“We hope this report can help the CFIA prepare in making the SFCR even more fitting for emerging risks.”, added Dr. Mark Juhasz, research associate of the Lab.
View the full report here.