GFSSS 2010: Ontario retail food safety policy comm
A Structural Approach to Defining the Ontario Retail Food Safety Policy Community
Andrew Papadopoulos Associate Professor, Department of Population Medicine
Co-coordinator, Master of Public Health University of Guelph
Guelph Food Safety Seminar Series Presentation, May 12, 2010
Abstract: The Ontario retail food safety system is a complex web of local, provincial, and federal government agencies, professional associations, interested organizations, foreign governments, academia, media and individuals. Together, these agencies form a policy community. The rules, responsibilities, and capacities of these agencies, and their interactions, have culminated in the current retail food safety policies in Ontario.
Policy communities have emerged as major concepts for conceptualizing patterns, players, and relationships, and are recognized as vital for the government to develop and implement policy. All actors that were active in Ontario retail food safety were identified. Inclusion criteria included having a legislated responsibility, stating retail food safety as a central function of the organization through mission statements or other organizational definitions or were active in retail food safety activity or advocacy through the development of position papers or other public communication.
Activity in retail food safety must have been conducted within the past calendar year. Most agencies within the subgovernment, the policy making component of the policy community, are governmental agencies. At the center of the subgovernment, the three main provincial agencies, OMAFRA, MOHLTC, and MNR, overlap and even share resources. Also integrated within these provincial agencies are cabinet and central policy structures. It is been demonstrated that the subgovernment has amended policy only in an incremental manner except in the event of a food safety crisis or substantial media-applied pressure.
The attentive public in the Ontario retail food safety policy community includes professional associations, special interest groups, media, researchers, and foreign governments, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Their purpose is to raise issues related to retail food safety. The main purpose of the subgovernment of a policy community is to develop varying policy options and to help the gove rnment to understand their implications. Different policy options are created by the interaction of members of the subgovernment, and many times these policy options are responses to issues raised by the attentive public. The Ontario retail food safety policy community has not been operating at its optimal capacity, as the diversity within the subgovernment is not present and the ability for the attentive public to raise concerns has been limited.
Greater diversity within the subgovernment might provide the necessary variety of policy options. The lack of diversity may be the result of the numerous government agencies responsible for retail food safety in Ontario, already crowding the subgovernment. Notwithstanding the number of agencies currently involved in this issue, a greater voice for special interest groups, professional associations, the media, academia and the public may help to broaden the perspectives while developing effective retail food safety policy in Ontario.
Speaker’s Bio: Andrew Papadopoulos is an Associate Professor and the Co-coordinator of the Master of Public Health Program at the University of Guelph. He joined the Department of Population Medicine in July 2008. Previously, he was an Associate Professor and the Director of the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University for four years. His professional experience includes being the Executive Director of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, the organization that represents the 36 Boards of Health in Ontario, for six years and working for the Etobicoke Health Department for nine years prior to that.