Food Investigation Response Manual
2.0 Roles and Responsibilities


This section includes a brief overview of the roles and responsibilities of the internal and more frequently involved external partners in the implementation of a food safety investigation and the recall process. Roles and responsibilities specific to each stage of the food safety investigation and recall process are included in the respective sections of this manual.

2.1 Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Internal Sections

2.1.1 Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The role of the CFIA is to enforce food safety legislation. To this end, the CFIA implements activities which contribute to a safe food supply and accurate product information. Within the context of this manual and the food recall process, this objective is supported by several activities, such as: investigations of food safety related issues and food emergency situations; providing scientific, technical and operational guidance; supporting internal and external working relationships; and monitoring the implementation of recommended risk management strategies by responsible firms. These activities are conducted/supported by several CFIA directorates at the Headquarters and Area levels as follows.

2.1.2 Office of Food Safety and Recall (Headquarters, OFSR)

The OFSR, in partnership with the Area Executive Director (ED), is responsible and accountable for the coordination and consistency of decision making on food safety investigations, including scoping, sampling and recalls at the point of time when an issue is referred. The OFSR is responsible for issues that are referred to them and CFIA operational and program staff have the responsibility to refer any issues to the OFSR where product may possibly be on the market and pose a potential health risk. The OFSR is involved at different levels in the food safety investigation, Health Risk Assessment process, decision making and communications of food safety issues.

The Executive Director, OFSR is responsible for the decision to determine the risk management strategy (i.e. to request a firm to initiate a recall) to be utilized to reduce or eliminate exposure of the public to a hazardous food product. The decision making process includes the review of health risk assessment/information related to incident, classifying the level and depth of a recall or identifying another appropriate risk management strategy. When a decision to request a recall is reached, the request will be conveyed to the recalling firm. For situations where a firm is not initiating a voluntary recall, the ED, OFSR may make a recommendation for the Minister to issue a recall order or may identify other risk management strategies.

The OFSR works with the Area Recall Coordinators and with Technical Specialists, Program Branch Specialists, Science Branch, International Policy Directorate, Legal Services Unit, Public Affairs and other Area staff throughout the process, as appropriate.

The OFSR is the single point of contact for both domestic and international food-related issues and food-related emergencies. In situations where there is a food safety issue related to an exported food product, the OFSR would notify the receiving country of the food safety concern. The OFSR will be the investigational contact with the foreign manufacturer when there is more than one Canadian importer of the affected product(s).

2.1.3 Technical Specialists (Headquarters, OFSR)

CFIA Technical Specialists provide OFSR with Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) for food safety issues linked to a food product. The Technical Specialists utilize food policies and standards in determining the risk and may interface with Health Canada (HC), requesting formal HRAs when required. The Technical Specialists for microbiology, chemical, marine biotoxins, extraneous material, nutrition and allergen issues are located in the Office of Food Safety and Recall, Food Safety Assessment and Recall Operations.

2.1.4 Area Executive Director/ Regional Director (Area)

The Area Executive Director has been delegated the authority for food safety investigations to ensure that the established policies and procedures are adhered to as well as the implementation of effective measures to reduce or remove exposure of consumers to hazardous food products and to take appropriate actions to prevent re-occurrence.

The Regional Director is responsible and accountable to the Area Executive Director for ensuring that food safety investigations and recall activities are carried out in a timely, appropriate and effective manner. They establish and maintain relationships with the Provinces and Territories and ensure that Headquarters is advised of potential food emergencies.

Area Executive Directors or Regional Directors take the lead to establish a liaison network with regional hospitals, police authorities and related public health partners or appropriate provincial authorities to ensure prompt sharing of information and coordination of the food safety investigation or tampering incidents, as per area procedures. The Regional Director (or designate) is to immediately advise the local police and the manufacturer, importer or distributor in the region, the Area Recall Coordinator (ARC) and the OFSR of any tampering incident associated with the company’s products.

2.1.5 Enforcement and Investigation Services

Enforcement and Investigative Services (EIS) provides advice on enforcement options and strategies as required. Requests for assistance usually originate directly from Area Operations.

2.1.6 Area Recall Coordinator / Regional Recall Coordinator

The ARC is the key communication link and primary contact between Area Operations staff and the OFSR. They coordinate and monitor the food safety investigation, the implementation of the recall and the recall verification. The ARCs liaise with Regional Directors, Inspection Managers/Supervisors, Program Network staff, Supervisors, other ARCs, Provincial/Territorial personnel and Inspectors on recalls and emerging issues to ensure the necessary information is collected and communicated to the appropriate components in a timely manner.

Note: Areas may have slightly different structures and all of the above roles and responsibilities may be carried out by Regional Recall Coordinators or some of the roles by Area or Regional Operations Coordinators.

2.1.7 Inspection Manager/Supervisor

The Inspection Manager/Supervisor oversees the activities of the field staff and is responsible and accountable to the Regional Director to coordinate, lead and direct all food safety investigations of food emergency situations, food safety issues and recall activities through the Area field staff.

2.1.8 Lead Investigator

These are food safety investigators located in the regional or district offices of an Area. They are designated inspectors who may be Commodity or Food Safety Inspectors. The Lead Investigator is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the food safety investigation and the firm’s implementation of the recommended risk management strategy. The Lead Investigator coordinates the verification and follow-up activities. The Lead Investigator also has the primary responsibility to ensure that the food safety investigation is expanded to its fullest and that all products which may pose a potential health risk to the public are investigated and assessed.

In certain situations, responsibilities for the recall implementation do not fall in the region/area responsible to conduct the food safety investigation (i.e. the firm’s headquarters is located in another location), in this case a second lead investigator is assigned to work on the recall.

2.1.9 Area Field Staff / Food Safety Investigation Team

Within the Areas are various field staff who contribute to the food safety investigation of food safety related issues and the verification and follow up activities of the recall process. Their roles and responsibilities are dependent upon their commodity / technical expertise.

The Area may engage a Food Safety Investigation Team (FSIT), dependent on the circumstances and complexity of an issue being investigated and the requirements for resources.

2.1.10 Other CFIA Branches

The details of the roles and responsibilities of: Policy and Programs Branch; Legal Services; Public Affairs; and Science Branch, are found in the FSIR Framework.

2.2 CFIA Governance

The details of CFIA governance and supporting committees, such as the Senior Food Safety Committee and the Food Safety Investigation Review Committee, are found in the FSIR Framework.

2.3 External Partners

2.3.1 Industry

It is the responsibility of the recalling firm to ensure the product that is sold is safe, assist the CFIA in the food safety investigation and to recall product effectively from the marketplace. The Industry should inform the CFIA when they are removing a food product from the marketplace. Recall guidelines for industry are available on the CFIA website.

2.3.2 Foreign Country Governments

The CFIA has several agreements with government officials from foreign countries that are generally commodity specific and include the exchange of information related to food safety issues and recalls. For countries where an agreement is absent, the OFSR will notify the receiving country’s officials of a food safety related recall when necessary.

2.3.3 Other External Partners

The details of the roles and responsibilities of other external partners, such as Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Provincial/Territorial/Municipal Governments, can be found in the FSIR Framework.

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