July 25, 2008, Ottawa — The Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) has launched its On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) Certification Program. Complete information for producers, storage intermediaries and packers interested in enrolling in the Program is available on the CHC website.
Provincial organizations, associations and individuals who are members of the CHC have full access to its Members Only producer and packer training resources webpage. If you belong to a member provincial association, contact your organization to obtain your log-in username and password. If you are an individual member, contact the webmaster (
) or call the CHC National Office at 613-226-4880 for log-in details.
Canadian-grown fresh fruit and vegetables have always been recognized for their high level of production safety and for their positive impact on the health of consumers. So why the need for an on-farm food safety program?
Recent cases of food borne illnesses, which are almost never connected to Canadian-grown fruits and vegetables, have increased consumer awareness of the potential for microbial contamination of fresh produce. In order to reassure buyers and maintain a high level of consumer confidence, the CHC has taken a lead in developing food safety programs at the farm for fresh fruit and vegetables.
CHC’s role in food safety is to provide the tools to enable and facilitate the ability of members to respond and compete in the marketplace. The objective is to achieve a strategic phase-in of one program for horticulture in Canada that is owned by the Canadian Horticultural Council on behalf of its members.
The CHC became involved in this initiative under a mandate to deliver a voluntary, market-driven program for and to members based on their input and needs – a program technically sound and credible and founded on the best available science and created through a transparent process.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the government body mandated to ensure credibility and confirm technical soundness for national food safety programs. The CHC on-farm food safety (OFFS) initiative is industry-led. Through the CHC, the industry has been at the forefront in developing a scientifically sound program that will meet consumer and buyer needs, while remaining cost-effective and realistic for producers and packers.
The program is intended to bring into focus the potential sources of microbiological, chemical and physical hazards for produce from field through shipping point. It contains basic information to support the produce industry as it develops, refines and implements measures to enhance the safety of the Canadian food supply.
WHAT PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE?
In 2002, the CHC released the On-Farm Food Safety Guidelines for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables in Canada. Since that time, the program has evolved and for the purposes of developing and managing a national food safety program for horticulture and ensuring commodity-specific risks are addressed, commodities have been organized into a number of crop groupings. On-Farm Food Safety Working Groups were established for each of the crop groupings and the development process for the eight commodity-specific programs has taken place concurrently. Each Manual is based on a HACCP Risk Analysis and Prerequisites program, and was tested by producers and packers during a pilot phase.
All of this work is being achieved through assistance from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian On-Farm Food Safety and Quality Program.