Reading CFIA Certificates

Reading CFIA Certificates

Apr 29, 2019 | Jeff Honey


Recently, I have been assisting a marine surveyor on a claim. The case involves two air shipments of product that came from Europe. The actual commodity is unimportant. They came from the shipper and travelled with the same airline. Each shipment had two sizes. Two inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) were assigned to inspect the two shipments. The inspections were done almost simultaneously with one lead inspector and the other one assisting.

As a former CFIA inspector myself, I have read a lot of inspection certificates over the years. I would like to point out a few things that you can do to ensure that your claims are handled accurately and efficiently, as you cannot always know who will end up looking at the claim. Accuracy by all involved is very important.

Each lot had a purchase order (PO) number associated with the lots and they were noted on the certificates. That is good for the importer’s reference, but the marine surveyor had written in the airway bill numbers (AWB) at the top of each certificate. Remember, the marine surveyor is looking at the cargo’s journeys, not at you PO number. It would be good to note all relevant identification numbers on your Request For Service document that you submit to the CFIA when requesting inspections.

The two different sizes of product were assigned lot numbers by the shipper during the time of packing. They were noted on the individual bags. This assists with the traceability of the product, should there be a recall.  It appears that one of the inspectors recorded the incorrect lot number for one size on one of the certificates. A quick read by one of the importer’s employees could have caught this error while the inspectors were still in the building.

Another thing that stood out to me was a line at the bottom of each page of the two certificates under “Remarks”. The inspector noted “U.S. No. 1 grade standards referenced.” CFIA inspectors note this when an inspection has been performed on a commodity for which we do not have a Canadian grade standard, (eg. broccoli, peppers or citrus fruit). Unfortunately, this particular commodity does not have a US grade standard, so that should not have been written. This does not affect the outcome of the inspections, but it does show that the inspectors in question did not appear to reference their USDA inspection manuals accurately. Had these claims gone to court, (which they may yet) a judge could question the accuracy of the federal inspection in general.

Always be as accurate as possible when you are completing the Request For Service document. Whenever possible, have someone compare that document to the final certificates before the inspectors leave the building. The discrepancies that I have noted above are relatively harmless. The inspectors could have amended the certificates to clear these things up. These discrepancies could also provide loopholes in a court of law for the defense, should the claims end up there.