The Canadian government is creating a position of chief food safety officer and named Brian Evans, currently executive vice-president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to the post effective June 28. Evans will remain chief veterinary officer.
The May 25 announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said that George Da Pont, currently commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, will take over as CFIA executive vice-president on June 28.
Evans worked in the animal health division of Agriculture Canada for more than 15 years and joined CFIA when it was formed in 1998. He became chief veterinary officer in 2004 and executive vice-president in 2007.
He was a familiar sight on television as the government’s main spokesman following the discovery of BSE in an Alberta farm in 2003. He warned accurately at the time that it would take several years to fully eradicate the disease.
Ronald Doering, an Ottawa-based food lawyer and former CFIA president, said in an interview the new job “relieves Brian from most administrative responsibilities and formalizes the important science and communication roles that he has been doing all along.”
It appears that Da Pont “is being groomed to be next president,” Doering added. “I’m glad that they seem to now recognize that no one should start that job cold.”
Carole Swan, the current president, took over the president’s post two years without any background in food issues and is regarded as generally ineffectual by the food industry and politicians.
Albert Chambers, executive director of the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Committee, said in an interview his group has been told that “Evans will remain a part of the office of the president and will lead the agency’s efforts to strengthen focus and leadership on food safety.” He will also continue to lead Canada’s work at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The downside of the change is a non-food safety person is taking on the No. 2 job at the agency, Chambers added. “Perhaps Brian will be the face of food safety reform at the agency as chief food safety officer – but on the surface it doesn’t appear that he will be given line responsibility for it.”
Da Pont, a well-regarded bureaucrat, has 20 years’ experience in the Aboriginal and Fisheries departments and became head of the coast guard in 2005. He has no experience in food issues.