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Commentary: Making Food Safe Costs Money

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By Ben Chapman

With the absence of Rob Ford antics and Olympic hockey news, Canadian media attention has shifted towards federal budget rumors and posturing for the next election. Taking the opportunity of the news lull and budget discussions, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses released a, uh, press release (and corresponding report) for redtape awareness week. The report suggests that complying with Canadian Food Inspection Agency requirements costs businesses an average of $20,396 per business or a federal total of $657 million.

From the release:

“Farmers support rules necessary to ensure safe food and are tired of getting the runaround from the CFIA,” says Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president, agri-business. “Spending thousands of dollars and countless hours navigating through confusing forms and contradictory information leaves farmers feeling completely frustrated. And this does nothing to promote food safety.”

Key findings on the CFIA:

Since 2006, the annual average cost of complying with the agency’s rules and paperwork has increased from $19,000 to $20,396 per agri-business owner;

Only one-in-five agri-business owners believe the CFIA provides good ‘overall service’, the same as previous findings in 2006, indicating there is no improvement in  overall service.

60 per cent of agri-business owners say CFIA regulations add significant stress to their lives; and

46 per cent report that the agency’s regulations significantly reduce productivity in their business, up from previous findings (40 per cent) in 2006.

Sort of.

The report details how those compliance numbers are calculated: time spent complying with regulations, new equipment and professional fees.

ben-headshot

Ben Chapman is an assistant professor and food-safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.

Except that some portion of those expenses are the cost of doing business in a marketplace that demands food safety. Not everything is linked to CFIA bureaucracy: Some of the equipment, personnel costs and documentation is industry best practice. Stuff that good companies would do in the absence of regulation.

Making food safely is stressful – and costs money.

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