Food safety regulations

HOW NEW REGULATIONS IMPACT GRAIN FARMERS

SOME OF THE safest food in the world is grown in Canada, thanks in part to the thousands of grain farmers across the country and in Ontario. Canada’s food safety regulations ensure the quality and safety of food being imported and exported, backed by science to uphold Canada’s reputation.

The newly-legislated Safe Food for Canadians Act has replaced 13 other statutes from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and focuses on licensing, a new Preventative Control Plan (PCP) methodology, traceability with consideration to Codex Alimentarius standards, and commodity-specific safety, trade, and consumer protection. Draft regulations are expected to materialise in the spring of 2014, with the Act coming into force in early 2015.

Grain farmers do not require a Preventative Control Plan, though processors do require one. New PCP regulations emphasize a ‘big picture’ view that considers and manages risks rather than adhering to specific distances. Since grain farmers are not required to have a plan, they will not be affected by these new regulations.

CURRENT REGULATIONS AFFECTING ONTARIO FARMERS
Codex, according to Samuel Godefroy, Vice- Chair of Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), is the main reference body to guide food standard development internationally.

“Codex promotes collaboration, inclusiveness, consensus building and transparency in over 150 countries, and sets standards via subsidiary bodies such as general subject committees and commodity committees,” says Godefroy. “It is a global reference point for international trade and serves domestic governments, industry, and consumers.”

Adding to the regulations set by Codex is the Global Food Safety Initiative, or GFSI, that provides a way for food safety experts from retail, manufacturing and food service companies, service providers associated with the food supply chain, international organizations, academia and government to collaborate and work towards solving current food safety issues. Randal Giroux, Vice President of Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain, says once a facility is GFSI certified, it is universally accepted.

“An international approach to food safety like GFSI enables a level playing field and sets standards enabling trade,” says Giroux.

Pat Van Osch, Senior Vice-President of Richardson International feels food and feed safety is critical.

 “Most producers have GFSIs in place,” says Van Osch. “With countries moving to their own sets of regulations, standardization and harmonization are important. Collaboration with the industry before making regulations is the key to success.”

Several programs are in place to ensure farmers meet regulations to ensure trade goes smoothly. Although these initiatives are not widely implemented, they are available and demand for them will increase in coming years as trade partners and consumers demand reassurance their food is safe.

On-farm safety standards involve setting standards for farmers and auditing farms to ensure standards are being met. The auditing process could include examining records of pesticide use to ensure correct amounts were used.

FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRAIN FARMERS
ExcelGrains is a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP-based farm food safety initiative currently available to farmers. Managed by the Canada Grains Council with direction by a Farmer Management Committee, it is part of the Canadian On-Farm Food Safety Program and is funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Food Safety and Food Quality Program.

ExcelGrains Canada enables a farming operation to assure the safety of grains from biological, chemical, and physical hazards. The key focus of the program is to ensure farmers are utilizing sound production, handling, and storage practices on the farm that in the end assure the farmer’s own family and other consumers, of a supply of safe food.

This program is based on government recognized food safety systems and is designed to increase consumer confidence and assist the industry in capturing market opportunities through the adoption of food safety systems. Currently, it is a voluntary program and is a proactive approach to oncoming regulations.

Karen Roblin, National Manager of ExcelGrains Canada says despite minimal demand today, the need for the ExcelGrains program will increase as consumers demand for the program increases.

“Some of the benefits of farmers participating in ExcelGrains include premiums on production contracts, incentives from provinces, developing future markets or retaining markets that could be lost, and the recordkeeping associated with being audited limits liability,” says Roblin. “Right now we have around 600 producers trained with about a dozen either certified or in the process of certification.”

“Ultimately, the adoption of good practices will enable farmers to be ahead of the curve and satisfy market demand when it arises,” says Roblin. Knowing what demands will be and preparing for those demands before they come about will make sure Canadian farmers are there to meet world demands for high quality, safe grain immediately. •