CFIA to consolidate labs, shed quarantine stations

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s cost-trimming proposals now include plans to shut down lab work in St. John’s, combine some of its lab space in B.C., consolidate other offices and sell off three unused quarantine inspection stations on the Prairies.

The federal agency on Wednesday announced plans to consolidate "a number of" unnamed administrative offices across the country by 2014-15, and to divest the quarantine/inspection stations that are "no longer used."

The three quarantine/inspection stations to be sold are at:

  • the Monchy, Sask. border crossing into Montana, 150 km south of Swift Current;
  • the Coutts, Alta. border crossing into Montana, about 100 km southeast of Lethbridge; and
  • the Nisku, Alta. station, near Edmonton International Airport.

"Over time, businesses expand, start up and close. Traffic of products change and industry and producers use alternate inspection stations," the agency said, in explaining the planned office consolidations and station divestitures.

"Business processes also evolve and new technologies emerge, reducing the need for CFIA staff to be in close proximity to certain regulated parties."

Service to Canadians "will not be impacted as a result of any office consolidation," the agency added. "CFIA services will be maintained regardless of which office is considered for consolidation; only the location from where the services are delivered will change."

St. John’s

The agency also recently announced plans to consolidate some of its lab services in Atlantic Canada, by transferring work now done at its St. John’s, Newfoundland lab to other CFIA facilities in Dartmouth, N.S. and in Charlottetown.

Work now done at the St. John’s lab includes plant health soil analysis; fertilizer testing; and food testing and method development. Food safety and fertilizer testing will move to Dartmouth, while remaining plant health work will move to the Charlottetown lab, CFIA said.

The St. John’s lab, the agency said, is "in need of significant upgrades and investment to maintain current services," while the Dartmouth and Charlottetown sites "are more modern and better equipped to handle the complex food and plant diagnostic testing required by industry in support of food safety and market access."

The Dartmouth lab has molecular diagnostic capability and multiple high technology analytical chemistry instruments not available at St. John’s, while Charlottetown allows access to "more modern facilities, equipment and greenhouses, in addition to highly secure biocontainment space that will enhance service delivery in both diagnostics and research support.

"None of these changes will impact food safety in any way," the agency said, but the move is expected to allow scientists and diagnosticians in Atlantic Canada to "work together more closely and effectively" and improve service through better access to "larger transportation hubs" such as Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport.

Sidney

The agency also recently announced it will move some of its activities now based at the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., north of Victoria, to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research station at Summerland in the Okanagan valley.

Work now done at the Sidney lab includes plant pathology and disease testing; plant pest research and repository of virus-free stock material; and post-entry quarantine.

"After further analysis, it will be determined which activities will be transferred to the AAFC Summerland facility under the responsibility of the CFIA," the agency said.

"Combining CFIA and AAFC expertise at one facility in Summerland, B.C. will provide enhanced capacity to serve the grapevine and tree fruit industries," the agency said. "Additional evaluation will be taking place to determine the optimal location for the post-entry quarantine of plant products."

The agency said it will also consult with the industry and AAFC on future maintenance of the repository for certified virus-free grapevine and fruit tree stock.

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