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The Compliance Verification System (CVS)

The Compliance Verification System (CVS) is a tool that Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff members use to verify that industry is continually complying with Canada’s federal food safety regulations and policies.

The CVS was first designed in 2005. It was put in place as a pilot project in 2006 and implemented in all of Canada’s federally-registered meat establishments on April 1, 2008.

Learn more about the pilot project. +/-

The pilot project covered 123 federally-registered meat establishments across the country. In total, there are over 700 of these establishments in Canada. Today, all of them use the CVS.

The CVS is a task-based inspection tool that:

  • is based on the CFIA’s regulatory requirements,
  • provides clear and consistent direction to CFIA inspectors,
  • is capable of adapting to rapidly-changing program requirements, and
  • can be applied to any inspection activity, in any commodity’s inspection program.

The CVS describes the tasks that must be completed, as well as the procedures inspectors must follow in order to complete each task, when an inspector is carrying out his or her duties. The benefits of the CVS are consistency:

  • in how inspection staff are trained to carry out their duties,
  • in how procedural instructions are provided and communicated,
  • in how (and where) results are recorded, and
  • in how non-compliance is managed.

Flexibility is another benefit of the CVS. The system continually evolves and requirements are updated as new scientific information becomes available.

CVS and meat inspection

Although most consumers are not familiar with the CVS, they benefit from it every time they buy or eat a product that was made in a federally-registered meat establishment.

Most meat is federally inspected. Learn more...+/-

Over 95 per cent of all animals slaughtered for food in Canada are inspected by the CFIA in federally-registered establishments. The rest are processed in provincially-registered plants.

Why? Because the CVS means that inspection has been done in a consistent, uniform, and efficient way, regardless of which inspector was on the job or where the plant is located.

Other countries use similar inspection tools. Learn more...+/-

Other countries use similar inspection tools to monitor food safety in their meat establishments. The United States uses a program called the Performance Based Inspection System, which is comparable to the CVS.

Members of the CFIA’s meat inspection staff work in federally-registered slaughter plants, processing and packaging establishments, and storage facilities. Depending on the type of facility being inspected and the type of product being made, some or all of more than 90 CVS tasks must be performed daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.

The CVS requires inspectors to conduct on-site assessments of each plant they are responsible for. They do this by observing plant processing activities and by interviewing plant personnel.

However, while visual inspection is important, reviewing test results and control measures is key to identifying pathogens that cannot be seen. So, CFIA inspectors also independently collect samples for microbiological testing and carry out in-depth reviews of company documents, records and test results.

For example: inspectors must regularly check a plant’s sanitation records, employee hygiene, cooking temperatures, ingredient controls, and lab results for pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli

Inspectors divide their time between assessing each establishment's safety-assurance programs and conducting on-site inspections. While the division can vary on a day-to-day basis, an inspector’s work is generally divided equally between assessments and on-site inspection.

Inspectors can cover more than one facility. Learn more...+/-

On average, meat inspection staff is responsible for 2-3 facilities, although this varies depending on the geographic location of the establishment, the type of establishment, and what is being produced there.

Compliance is normally achieved through cooperation between the plant operator and the inspection staff. The compliance rate for federally-registered meat establishments is very high.

Learn more about corrective action requests. +/-

A Corrective Action Request, or CAR, is issued when a problem is identified. The operator of the plant then has 60 days – or sometimes less - to fix it or face consequences.

However, when a problem arises, the CFIA requires that the plant operator commit to an action plan to fix the problem and prevent it from re-occurring. The CFIA also verifies that the operator’s plan has been implemented appropriately. When the plan is not successful or when the operator is unwilling or unable to correct the problem, the CFIA pursues stronger enforcement options.

For example: enforcement action can include detaining and recalling product, shutting down production lines, closing the plant, prosecution and removing the operating license.