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A Summative Evaluation of the On-farm Food Safety Recognition Program (OFFSRP)

Evaluation

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Evaluation Directorate is responsible for evaluating the relevance and performance of agency programs, policies and initiatives. This effort supports informed decision-making and enhances performance and accountability.

The Evaluation Directorate is accountable to the CFIA’s Evaluation Committee, chaired by the President. All evaluations must be reported to the Evaluation Committee and must be conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board's 2009 Policy on Evaluation. Evaluation projects are selected based on higher risk or significance during an annual Agency planning process, and then reflected in the Agency’s Evaluation Plan, which is approved by the Evaluation Committee.

Overview

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted an internal summative evaluation of the On-farm Food Safety Recognition Program (OFFSRP). This evaluation covers the period from April 1, 2003 to March 31, 2008 (with some of the expected results reported up to and including March 31, 2009).

The OFFSRP is a process led by the CFIA with the participation of federal, provincial and territorial governments and the involvement of industry. Its need was identified in 2002, and it was established and integrated into the food safety and quality pillar of the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF).

The OFFSRP's objective is to provide formal government recognition to on-farm food safety systems which meet the program requirements that are based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) management system principles. These on-farm food safety systems are developed by national producer organizations (NPOs).

For this evaluation, key informant interviews were conducted with 24 CFIA staff and other government department representatives, 10 provincial government representatives, and 18 representatives from industry comprising NPOs, producers, the Canadian On-Farm Food Safety (COFFS) Working Group, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and customers (e.g. McCains, Loblaws, Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors).

Case studies were developed for four other jurisdictions (Australia, Denmark, United Kingdom and Ontario) to identify similar challenges and lessons learned.

The evaluation found that the OFFSRP achieved the majority of expected results, including those outlined in the memorandum of understanding between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the CFIA and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS).

Key Findings

Relevance

The evaluation found that there is a continuing need for a nationally coordinated science-based recognition program. Canadian consumers are paying more attention to food safety along the entire food supply chain, and the majority of NPOs would like to continue with the program.

The evaluation also found that the OFFSRP is in the public interest. It meets industry and buyer needs for a credible science-based approach to managing food safety risks on the farm and meeting Canadian consumer needs related to food safety.

The evaluation reports that the OFFSRP is well aligned with federal government priorities and does not duplicate or work at cross-purposes with other on-farm food safety initiatives, particularly at the provincial level.

The report found that there is a strong rationale for having CFIA as the lead for OFFSRP, including:

  • the complementarities between the OFFSRP and the CFIA's other HACCP-based programs for food processors and its overall food inspection mandate;
  • the Agency's interest in maintaining strong working relationships with the industry, provinces and territories, and in knowledge and experience sharing, in order to better deliver its programs;
  • the linkages between the design of OFFSRP (e.g. based on scientific evidence of risks, comprehensive systems supported by detailed documentation) and the CFIA's responsibilities related to traceability and biosecurity;
  • strong support from all stakeholder groups for the CFIA lead role; and
  • evidence from other jurisdictions that this type of responsibility rests with similar agencies.

The evaluation also found that the OFFSRP yielded some unexpected benefits, including:

  • the buyers accepted NPOs audits as confirmation of on-farm food safety practices earlier than expected; and
  • the CFIA benefited from improved working relationships with all stakeholder groups due to its leadership of the recognition program.

Recommendations and response

The CFIA continually improves its programs and protocols. Management's commitment to addressing recommendations made by internal evaluations like this one is a critical part of that continual improvement.

The Agency has developed a management response action plan to address the opportunities for improvement identified by the evaluation.

  1. The evaluation recommended that OFFSRP documentation be completed and that it should be made available to NPOs.
    • A subcommittee of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Food Safety Committee (FPTFSC) was created to advise the FPTFSC on the development of the OFFSRP. Work is ongoing. The subcommittee has approved all completed documentation (OFFSRP policy and protocols). The NPOs were consulted and directly copied with updated and completed documentation. This process was repeated a number of times during final developmental steps.
  2. The evaluation recommended that the OFFSRP continue and that options for stabilizing program funding be investigated.
    • The OFFSRP continues to be delivered through a CFIA-led process. There is strong support by all stakeholders for a national OFFSRP, and the OFFSRP complements other CFIA HACCP-based programs. The OFFSRP is well aligned with federal and provincial government priorities. In addition, these findings have prompted the management of the OFFSRP to explore the potential for establishing the OFFSRP as a permanent program. This work is in process.
    • Funding for the OFFSRP has been extended until March 31, 2013, through a memorandum of understanding between the CFIA and AAFC. Activities under this memorandum of understanding include continuous improvement of the recognition program.
  3. The evaluation recommended that the OFFSRP's long-term objectives be finalized and that a performance measurement strategy to report on these objectives be developed.
    • In April 2010, the CFIA's Policy and Programs Branch completed a draft discussion paper regarding the long-term objectives and associated performance measurements for recognition programs. Performance targets and planned annual results have been set for the OFFSRP until March 31, 2013. Related internal CFIA policy discussions began in spring 2011 and are ongoing.

Complete report: