Don’t Play Chicken with the CFIA

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently imposed a hefty $160, about it 000 fine on Lilydale Inc. for offences under the Health of Animals Regulations and the Meat Inspection Regulations. According to the posting on their prosecutions bulletin, a CFIA investigation determined that Lilydale had “left chickens in transportation crates, outside in cold weather conditions, which resulted in avoidable distress and/or death”, contrary to paragraph 143(1) (d) of the Health of Animals Regulations and subsection 62(1) of the Meat Inspection Regulations.  In response, the CFIA imposed the $160,000 fine.

Penalties of this size are relatively rare in Canada, but serve to remind us that the CFIA has bite in addition to its bark.  And industry should keep in mind that the CFIA’s bite will substantially change when the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) comes into full force and effect.

Currently, under the Food and Drugs Act and other Acts soon to be subsumed by the SFCA, the CFIA has the authority to impose fines for offences under the Acts up to a maximum of $250,000 and/or up to two or three years in jail.

Under the SFCA, however, these maximums will skyrocket.  Possible fines shoot up to $5,000,000!  If ever there was an incentive to get your ducks in a row (note how we’ve used three different animal references in this one short blog post!), the possibility of $5,000,000 in fines (in addition to possible jail time) should be it…

But when, FoodLawyer, when will these new powers under the SFCA come into force?!?  We wish we could tell you, but that would require a crystal ball… The latest from the CFIA is that we are unlikely to see the regulations under the SFCA (which will bring the SFCA into force) until sometime in 2016.  As set out here, the CFIA recently launched a targeted consultation with micro and small businesses on the topic of the SFCA.  More consultation = more waiting.

In the meantime, in addition to the fines imposed, Lilydale is getting more press as it is now in the midst of a recall for listeria contamination. This has also been causing the CFIA grief for its alleged reduction in oversight at meat packing plants. The Agency has denied the claims and hopes to keep consumer confidence high … just as they finally hope to bring the SFCA into action…

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