Chapter 9 - Emergency Situations
9.1 Introduction

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The CFIA has adopted the Government of Canada's definition of an emergency: "A present or imminent event that requires prompt coordination of actions concerning persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people, or to limit damage to property or the environment." (CFIA Emergency Response Plan)

The CFIA has the lead role in responding to food safety, animal health and plant health emergencies or any other emergency that falls within its mandate.

Emergency response is based on four pillars: prevention, preparation, response and recovery. Prevention (mitigation) in this context would involve measures to preclude a disease or condition from entering the country, and thus includes import controls and bio-security. Preparation involves developing contingency or response plans, training staff and exercising the plans. Response, when the event actually happens, is intended to control and limit the damage. While primarily the role of the emergency response team, the Veterinarian or Inspector in Charge may in fact be on the team, and their immediate actions can have a significant impact on the ability to get control of the situation. Recovery would be a multi-agency effort to return the agricultural community back to a pre-outbreak condition. The focus of this chapter will be preparation and initial response.

In a registered establishment, one might encounter various urgent situations including animal diseases (domestic, foreign, zoonotic), food borne diseases, chemical contamination, leaks or spills, structural damage, floods or fires etc. Natural or accidental disasters are not within the scope of the program concern, and will be dealt with through the normal emergency response channels. The role of Meat Programs of the CFIA in these situations would be primarily related to the safety of the food products and the welfare of the animals in the establishment. Food recalls are the responsibility of the operator and of the Office of Food Safety and Recall. (For more information see Section 9.6 of this chapter, Chapter 3 and also Food Recalls: Make a Plan and Action It! Manufacturers' Guide.

Since the slaughterhouse may well be where a foreign animal disease (FAD) is first detected, the primary focus of this chapter is to guide the operator, the veterinarians and inspectors through procedures to prepare for and to immediately respond to a FAD. The Health of Animals Regulations defines "disease" as "any reportable disease or other serious epizootic disease to which an animal or germplasm is susceptible and which can be transmitted by the animal or germplasm."

The Health of Animals Act sets out the duties and prohibitions in relation to reportable diseases. It must be remembered that as soon as the presence of a reportable disease is suspected or has been confirmed, the District Veterinarian (Animal Health) must be contacted as soon as possible. Subsections 5(1) and (2) of the Health of Animals Act read as follows:

  • 5. (1) A person who owns or has the possession, care or control of an animal shall notify the nearest veterinary inspector of the presence of a reportable disease or toxic substance, or any fact indicating its presence, in or around the animal, immediately after the person becomes aware of the presence or fact.
  • (2) Immediately after a person who is a veterinarian, or who analyses animal specimens, suspects that an animal is affected or contaminated by a reportable disease or toxic substance, the person shall so notify a veterinary inspector.

The Health of Animals Act and its related regulations confer on the designated inspectors and veterinarians the powers that they need to carry out all the specified actions. Please refer to section 22, section 35, section 38, section 48, and section 55 of the Health of Animals Act as well as section 104 and section 108 of the Health of Animals Regulations for additional information on the duties and prohibitions in relation to reportable diseases.

The reportable diseases and immediately notifiable diseases lists can be found in section 9.4.

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