Results at a glance - Evaluation of the Food Safety Program
- The Food Safety Program (FSP) is responsible for establishing regulations, guidelines, standards, and policies pertaining to food safety and nutrition, as well as conducting reviews and assessing the safety of food ingredients, veterinary drugs for food-producing animals, food processes, and final foods.
- The total budget for the FSP was approximately $352.2 million over the six-year period of the evaluation (2012-13 to 2017-18).
What the evaluation found
- Stakeholders and partners were generally positive regarding the usefulness of information provided by the Program and with its engagement efforts. However, opinions were somewhat less positive on the timeliness of information and some key informants expressed a desire for earlier engagement and more collaboration with the Program in areas like regulation, policy, research, and planning.
- Canadians' knowledge of food safety issues is fairly high and Canadians generally exhibit a number of effective food safety behaviours. However, gaps in knowledge still exist and a significant proportion of Canadians continues to conduct various unsafe food handling, preparation, and storage activities.
- Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) are completed according to established service standards 100% of the time; however, Health Portfolio partners noted that improvements could be made regarding the timeliness, clarity, and usefulness of the HRAs, especially when there was no clear guidance or policy on a particular issue.
- There have been improvements to the premarket assessment processes, like elimination of backlogs, improved tracking, and development of guidance, and service standards are being met. While industry likes the predictability of the process, some still believe that it is too slow.
- Stakeholders and partners appreciate the quality and importance of the FSP's policies and guidelines, and there are many examples of how they use this type of information. However, some Portfolio partner key informants felt that Health Canada needs to take a more proactive leadership role in this area (i.e., providing more policies and guidance in certain areas, and not just in reaction to specific events).
- The FSP has implemented a number of efficiency measures over the past few years, like use of Market Authorization and Incorporation by Reference and better tracking of premarket submissions. At the same time, there are resource constraints, like reliance on targeted funding and focus on mandate commitments, that make it challenging for the Program to make progress on activities that are more proactive in nature.
- Performance measurement is focused on key service standards. For certain key outcomes, performance data did not capture the perspectives of Canadians.
Recommendations and responses
- Work with Health Portfolio partners to explore ways to better operationalize the current HRA process.
Response: Health Canada's Director General (DG) of the Food Directorate will engage the Canada Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada, through the DG Committee on Food Safety, to review the current governance mechanisms for maintaining clear responsibilities related to HRAs.
- Increase coordination and collaboration between Health Canada and Health Portfolio partners at the planning stage to discuss issues such as research plans and the alignment of objectives and priorities across the Health Portfolio.
Response: Health Canada will review existing Portfolio coordination of food safety issues and research to maximize collaboration, transparency, and timely decision making.
- Consider increasing outreach and education efforts to Canadians to help address various food safety knowledge and behaviour gaps.
Response: Health Canada will review existing food safety risk communications to develop and implement a Food Safety Risk Communications Action Plan that is aligned with the Communications and Public Affairs Branch's overarching communications plan.
- Increase efforts to obtain Canadians' perspectives on the timeliness and usefulness of Health Canada information on food safety and the effectiveness of its engagement efforts.
Response: Additional performance measures will be identified or developed to address Canadians' perceptions related to two short-term outcomes in the Food and Nutrition Program Logic Model.
About the evaluation
The evaluation assessed the key desired outcomes for FSP from April 2012 to March 2018. Methods used to collect data to address the evaluation questions included a review of the literature, program files and documents, and financial data, as well as key informant interviews with internal and external stakeholders, and two case studies. A health equity lens was also applied.
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