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Transforming the food inspection system: Q&A with Shelley Ippolito

Canada has one of the best food inspection systems in the world.  To maintain a robust approach to food and consumer protection and to stay current with global changes and advances in science and technology, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is modernizing its approach.
Safe Food Canada turns to Shelley Ippolito, Executive Director for the National Service Centres and Inspection Schools to shed some light.
SFC: What is the CFIA Culture Change and why is it important to the successful implementation of the Safe Food for Canadian’s Act?
SI: The CFIA is undergoing an important transformation to re-shape how we deliver our mandate. This transformation will prepare us for the regulations that will flow from the Safe Food for Canadians Act. Our modernization efforts focus on how we conduct our food safety inspections and on what we expect from businesses in the way of preventative control plans.

“We are moving away from commodity-focussed programs to a modern, risk- and system-based approach.” —Shelley Ippolito

SFC: How can a food regulating entity build a culture reflective of modern-day challenges?
SI: The CFIA has identified culture change as one of the key enabling factors for this modernization to occur. To build a positive and common culture that supports a new and modernized strategy, we defined the culture of our inspectorate using three words: “Courage, Rigour and Respect”.  These words have been articulated as behavioural expectations, incorporated into training, and embraced by our inspectors.

SFC: How does the CFIA approach training for new inspectors?

SI: We run a program called the The Pre-Requisite Employment Program (PREP)  designed for all newly hired inspectors. The PREP ensures that incoming inspectors have a consistent learning experience that best prepares them for their role as CFIA inspection staff. PREP participants are coupled with a seasoned inspection manager (IM) who becomes their “IM for life”.

“The PREP experience allows participants to develop a national network of colleagues at the start of their new career. Their network shares a common culture and can be drawn upon for support throughout their career.”

Shelley also explained that over 225 inspectors have now participated in the six-week program at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Training College in Rigaud, Quebec.
SFC: How do you envision the coordination of food protection learning in Canada 10 years from now?

SI: For the CFIA, one main goal is to enable managers and staff to identify training paths that members of each group require as they progress through their careers. Our plan is to maintain the capacity to design, develop and deliver training that is specific to the CFIA.
Safe Food Canada would like to thank the CFIA for this collaboration. Warm regards to Mrs. Ippolito and her team whose work is positively impacting food protection for future generations to come.