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Canada differs from U.S. on inspection approach during coronavirus pandemic



While U.S. leaders are reassuring the public that decreased inspections aren’t a food safety risk, the federal government in Canada this week announced $20 million for inspectors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money, going to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), is to be used for hiring and training, as well as equipping, staff so food inspections will continue. The plan also includes training of provincial food inspectors.

Earlier in April the Canadian government announced federal and provincial inspectors would be coordinating services and cooperate on implementing a protocol on how meat processing plants restart after having been closed because of employees infected with COVID-19, also called coronavirus.

In the United States inspections have been scaled down to reduce the danger of infection to inspectors and workers, according to a statement from the Food and Drug Administration’s top food safety administrator. Inspections of foods and facilities in the United States, as well as U.S. inspections of foreign food suppliers, have been curtailed

“For the time being, we are not doing in-person routine surveillance inspections of farms and food facilities in this country and others that export foods to the United States,” Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner said in Thursday’s statement.

“We are doing this to limit exposure to the virus and out of concern for the safety of FDA investigators, state inspectors, and the workers in these farms and facilities as people all over the world are sheltering in place.”

Yiannas said “mission critical inspections,” such as those related to foodborne illness outbreaks or Class I recalls, would be carried out as usual.

The FDA administrator placed responsibility for food safety on the food industry, invoking the preventive regulations of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

“FDA-regulated facilities are required to have preventive controls in place each and every day to ensure that the foods they produce are safe,” Yiannas said in his statement this week. “Industry has the primary responsibility to ensure the foods they produce are safe and by and large, they’re doing an amazing job at providing safe and available food to consumers.

“Clearly, at this critical time, food safety is as important as it has ever been, and we expect food producers to redouble their food safety efforts.”

There has not been any connection between food or food packaging and the transmission of the coronavirus, according to public health officials. However, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many health agencies around the world advise precautionary measures for food handling and preparation.

The close proximity on assembly lines in food plants from fresh produce to processed meats provides easy transmission of the virus between workers.