Ministers want food safety action plan for July

Canada’s agriculture ministers want their staff to come up with an action plan on food safety in time for their next meeting in July.

Gathering Monday in Ottawa at a meeting co-chaired by federal and Ontario agriculture ministers Gerry Ritz and Leona Dombrowsky, the provincial ag ministers said “concerted” effort will continue a national agriculture and food traceability system for emergency management and market access purposes.

The system as proposed would build on existing initiatives, with priority on livestock and poultry. The ministers, in a joint release Monday, said they “directed their officials to return in July with an action plan on food safety and a progress report on traceability.”

The ag ministers said they “concurred that Canada’s food safety and traceability systems are linked and are a key part of improving the competitiveness and profitability for the (ag) sector.”

The ministers said they discussed the current economic situation, both within Canada and globally, and particularly the “ongoing economic difficulties” facing the livestock sector including the responsiveness of existing and future programs to meet both long and short-term challenges.

Also on the agenda were “recent advances” on issues related to market access, including the establishment of the federal Market Access Secretariat. The ministers also agreed to continue to work with the ag industry to assess and address the impacts of mandatory U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements.

The ministers, in their release, also noted the progress made in the development of programs for Growing Forward, the new federal/provincial agriculture policy framework.

The ministers said they “reiterated their commitment to complete bilateral agreements and get new programs up and running in all provinces and territories by April 1, 2009.

“New Growing Forward programs will be more flexible and responsive to local needs and support a strong, competitive and innovative sector that contributes to society’s priorities and proactively manages risk.”

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