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The Importer Risk Assessment model (IRA)

In the face of constantly evolving globalization and international trade, imports of highly diverse food products from countries around the world is increasing. In this context, Canadian consumers are regularly exposed to changing risks in regards to food safety. Mitigating these risks represents one of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s highest priorities, and the health and safety of Canadians is the driving force behind the design and development of CFIA programs.

Risk-informed decision making is at the core of the agency's everyday work. As part of this commitment, the CFIA is working to continuously evolve in the way it manages risks while embracing technology and supporting the industry's ability to compete globally.

Following the same scientific principles as those used for the development of the Establishment-based Risk Assessment (ERA) models (ERA-Food, ERA- Hatchery, ERA-Feed Mill, ERA-Renderer), the CFIA developed the Importer Risk Assessment (IRA) model, a quantitative, science-based risk assessment tool designed to evaluate the food safety risk associated with food importers licensed under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). The IRA model is a direct adaptation of the ERA-Food model, sharing similar risk factors/assessment criteria applicable to either importers or domestic establishments.

The objective of this model is to help the agency to better prioritize its inspection resources by evaluating the level of risk that importers, bringing food products to be sold in their imported condition, represent for Canadian consumers. This tool takes into consideration the risks associated with the specific food commodities and products brought into Canada, the mitigation strategies implemented by importers to control their food safety risk, as well as the importer compliance information. The IRA model will be used, along with other factors, to inform on the level of oversight required by inspectors and on program planning to focus efforts on areas of highest risk.

How the IRA model works

The IRA model uses scientific data and importer specific information to determine the level of risk. As per SFCR, importers are required to implement three Preventive Control Plan (PCP) sub-elements. The frequency and type of oversight activity (e.g., Preventive Control Inspection) will be guided by the risk category assigned by the IRA model for each importer. Higher risk importers will require more oversight while lower risk importers will require less oversight.

Using collaboration and innovation

The IRA model is being developed by CFIA staff in collaboration with experts from academia, government and industry. The development of the model also draws on the experience acquired while developing the other ERA models as well as scientific literature and leading edge modelling technology.


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