A new way of assessing risk

March 2019

In a world of changing risks, innovation and new technologies, the CFIA knows we must adapt and be more efficient and responsive.

The CFIA has always used risk in its oversight. For example, the CFIA performs surveys on regulated species such as the gypsy moth to inform pest risk analysis. This is done on a yearly basis to inform response plans, which may include restrictions on imports to Canada. In food, the Agency conducts targeted sampling of certain imported fish products based on compliance history of past shipments. In animal health, surveillance of both wild and domestic birds helps detect avian influenza and shape response plans.

Still, the risks to food, animal health and plants continue to change rapidly. At the same time, Canadian industry is becoming more efficient in order to compete in a global economy.

It's in this context that the CFIA has been evolving the way we manage risk, support industry's ability to compete globally, and embrace technology to provide more efficient and responsive service.

"Our Agency is improving its ability to effectively gather, analyze, and use data in our decision-making process," says Alyssa Daku, the CFIA's Chief Risk Executive. "Continuing to build risk information will be key to harnessing our capacity to target areas where there are higher threats to food safety."

The CFIA has worked together with academia, industries and government partners to create a tool to provide a consistent and efficient approach to inspection. The Establishment-based Risk Assessment (ERA) model uses data and a mathematical algorithm to evaluate federally regulated food establishments in terms of the level of risk they represent to Canadian consumers.

ERA – How it works

The ERA model will identify areas of higher risk and inform where inspectors should be spending more or less time. Using scientific compliance data and establishment-specific information gathered from questionnaires provided to regulated parties, the ERA model evaluates a facility and determines their level of risk. This means that establishments or sectors that require more attention can be easily identified.

Information is being collected from establishments through questionnaires and the CFIA's compliance assessments. This data is used to populate the ERA result to produce a risk profile for each establishment.

Going global

The ERA model has already garnered attention on the international stage. Food Microbiology, a science journal dedicated to publishing the latest in related research and information, published an article detailing the CFIA's ERA model this past fall.

"The CFIA is pleased to have the ERA model shared with the scientific community," comments Aline Dimitri, the CFIA's Deputy Chief Food Safety Officer. "Showcasing our work and methodology opens the door to hear from our counterparts."

The CFIA will review and update the ERA model on an ongoing basis, using science, technology, and risk assessment approaches. The model is designed to adapt quickly to emerging global and scientific trends, new risks and changes within establishments.

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CFIA staff at a food processing plant.

Leading the way in the dairy sector

Data collection in the dairy sector has been completed and this sector will be the first to have the ERA results integrated into inspections – targeted for the fall of 2018. This means CFIA inspectors may visit some dairy facilities more often and others less. The inspection frequency and the tasks carried out will be guided by where a facility falls in the 4 categories of risk.

Under a risk-based inspection approach, higher risk establishments (categories 1 and 2) would require more oversight while lower risk establishments (categories 3 and 4) would require less oversight. Any new dairy establishments without a risk categorization would be deemed a priority for inspection. The risk categories determine the scope and the minimum frequency of inspection ranging from a full inspection required over 30 months in low risk establishments to a full inspection done annually in high risk establishments.

Prior to this rollout in dairy, dedicated information sessions will be held with regulated parties to allow for questions and feedback.

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