The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working diligently to address the challenges and concerns raised by industry and consumers regarding COVID-19. The CFIA will continue to deliver critical services that serve to preserve the integrity of Canada’s food safety system while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base. Appropriate oversight of domestic production and imported food products are essential to meeting that objective while also supporting trade and the supply chain, including through the certification of exports. The CFIA is committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees while maintaining critical inspection services.
The CFIA will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will adjust activities to take into account the evolving situation. The CFIA will continue to collaborate and communicate regularly with regulated parties, federal, provincial and territorial colleagues and stakeholders.
The CFIA is prioritizing critical activities during COVID-19 pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is taking action to preserve the integrity of Canada’s food safety system, while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base.
The CFIA has activated its business continuity plan, which introduces a temporary suspension of low-risk activities that do not immediately impact the production of safe food for Canadians in order to prioritize critically important services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The food safety system remains strong.
This approach to temporarily suspend low-risk activities allows the CFIA to continue to safeguard the health and safety of its staff while refocusing efforts in areas of higher risk and towards activities that are critical to the safety of food, as well as animal and plant health.
The Government of Canada is working hard with partners at all levels to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it develops. This includes continuing to perform the critical activities and to deliver needed services to preserve the integrity of Canada’s food safety system.
CFIA is prioritizing:
- Food safety investigations and recalls
- Animal disease investigations
- Inspection services
- Export certification
- Import inspection services
- Emergency management
- Laboratory diagnostics in support of the above
CFIA is temporarily suspending:
- Food inspections and investigations not related to food safety
- Low risk surveillance or sampling activities (food, plant and animal)
- Inspections of preventive control plans and plant and animal inspections in areas of low risk
- Low risk labelling and domestic facility inspections
- Low risk permissions
While the CFIA’s business continuity plan is in place, industry must continue to comply with requirements pertaining to food, animal and plant health and remains responsible for the safety and quality of the food that it produces, imports and exports. The CFIA is working with industry and is continuing its critical activities so that Canadians continue to have access to safe food during this difficult time.
In an effort to protect the health and safety of its employees and their families and while providing critical services, the CFIA continues to monitor developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and to support the efforts of the Canadian and global authorities in their responses by making adjustments to its service delivery plans.
The CFIA understands the concerns of industry and consumers with respect to COVID-19 and the unprecedented impact around the globe on businesses, economies and people and is committed to communicating its ongoing activities.
Current measures during COVID-19 for industry regulated by the CFIA
In recent days, the CFIA has received many requests from industry to have its inspectors and officials sign various documents, such as Visitor Request Forms and COVID-19 Screening Forms, before entering its facilities. Inspectors have also received requests from industry to follow specific directives before entering a place for inspection. As you are aware, CFIA officials are not present at establishments as “visitors” but as inspectors under CFIA legislation that allows them to enter any place in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that an activity regulated by CFIA legislation is conducted, for the purpose of verifying compliance and/or preventing non-compliance.
To ensure that inspectors continue to meet the health and safety requirements stemming from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) and Health Canada’s guidelines regarding the management of the COVID-19 Pandemic, CFIA employees have been asked to conduct a self-assessment of their daily health status for potential symptoms of the virus prior to each shift. They have also been asked to follow COVID-19 protocols put in place by the establishments in which they work, such as the monitoring of temperature upon arrival on or at an establishment.
Please note that CFIA employees have been advised by the CFIA not to sign documents such as your company’s COVID-19 Form as they are required to abide by the policies, procedures and terms of employment established by their employer, the CFIA. As a reminder, CFIA inspectors are not obligated to share personal information with regulated parties regarding their personal travels or health conditions. This is protected personal information under the federal Privacy Act.
The CFIA understands the concerns of industry with respect to COVID-19 and the exceptional circumstances that currently exist. The purpose of this Notice is to inform regulated parties of some of the measures that it has put in place regarding the COVID-19 situation. These measures are informed by the CFIA’s obligations regarding the health and safety of its employees, which derive from federal legislation, that is, the Canada Labour Code, Part II, and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Regarding the COVID-19 situation, the CFIA is also taking into consideration the advice and recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and Treasury Board.
The CFIA takes its obligations regarding the health and safety of its employees very seriously. As a result, it has advised its employees of the following based on the current advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (please note, this advice to employees is subject to change and to being updated):
- If they have travelled outside of Canada, upon their return CFIA employees should self-isolate for 14 days
- Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms must advise their manager immediately, contact their local public health authority or medical practitioner and leave the workplace
- Employees who are at home and who may have COVID-19 are to follow the advice of their local public health authority regarding self-isolation
The CFIA expects regulated parties to take similar measures.
Due to the evolving nature of a pandemic, the information contained in this Notice is subject to change. Please check the CFIA’s website regularly for updates to this Notice.
CFIA update on inspection services during COVID-19 pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is closely monitoring the developments related to COVID-19 and is prioritizing the health and safety of its employees. In an effort to balance safety with service, the CFIA will continue to make adjustments in the coming days to fulfill its mandate of safeguarding Canada’s food, animals and plants.
Further, CFIA employees, including inspectors, who are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of illness have been advised to stay home and will be excluded from all work activities including establishment inspections. The CFIA takes this situation seriously and has advised all employees that they have a duty to follow the guidance of health authorities to protect public health. If a business becomes concerned that a CFIA inspector has reported for work and is sick, or exhibiting symptoms he or she is sick, the business should contact the inspector-in-charge.
In line with public health guidance, the CFIA has suspended all non-essential work travel outside of Canada and if employees have travelled outside of Canada they have been advised to stay home and self-isolate for at least 14 days.
The CFIA recognizes the importance of domestic production as well as imports and exports of food, plants and animals. The Agency is committed to maintaining critical inspection services and continues to further define plans and mitigation measures to address potentially increasing inspector absenteeism.
This situation highlights the importance of continued collaboration and communication between CFIA and industry. As this situation continues to evolve based on the latest information from public health authorities, the Agency asks for your continued patience, collaboration and flexibility.
The CFIA has strong measures in place to ensure the safety of Canada’s food supply. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19. The Agency continues to monitor the current situation closely in collaboration with our federal, provincial, territorial and international partners. If the CFIA becomes aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to protect Canada’s food supply.
Imports and exports of food to and from Canada are not currently affected. Should the situation change, the CFIA will keep industry updated and share information as it becomes available.
All Canadian federally licensed establishments adhere to rigorous, internationally accepted standards and food safety requirements including strong sanitation and hygiene requirements.
The World Health Organization has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on the need for all Canadians to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit canada.ca/coronavirus.
Plants and Animals
There is currently no evidence to suggest that this virus is circulating in animals in Canada. Imports and exports of plants and animals to and from Canada are not currently affected. As more information becomes known, the CFIA will take any necessary action to protect the safety of Canada’s plants and animals.
There have been no reports of COVID-19 infection in livestock species anywhere. The CFIA is conducting research on domestic animal species (pig, chicken, turkey) to determine their susceptibility to COVID-19 and validate test methods and the potential for transmission between animals.
As always, producers should follow normal biosecurity measures by continuing to consider the potential risks associated with various people entering their business premises and implement measures to manage these visits.
For more information on on-farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles and National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide.