December 21, 2016

Just say NO to private inspections in Canada and be mindful that Foreign Survey Reports must contain specific information

By: Tom Oliveri

I suggest one simple rule when you have produce inspected in Canada and that is the inspection MUST be a government sponsored inspection known as a CFIA inspection. The Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) will not recognize private inspections when adjudicating DRC complaints unless both seller and buyer have agreed that a private inspection will be acceptable. I cannot recall a situation where I would not insist that a shipper always insist on a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection when determining quality and condition of your product. Because of streamlined efficiencies, the CFIA have inspectors available to perform timely inspections in major markets such as Toronto and Montreal.

The CFIA has stringent performance measurements connected to turnaround time and written procedures to follow when performing and submitting a written summary of the inspection, thus making it in almost all circumstances not necessary to seek a non-government inspection alternative. As a shipper, always ask yourself the upside benefit to your company acquiescing to a private inspection service in Canada. Finally, demand only CFIA inspections in Canada and say no to non-government private inspections.

Unlike Canada, when shipping overseas you don’t have the option of a government inspection so a private survey company will need to be utilized. When you invoice a PACA licensee and the buyer is submitting a foreign survey report, make sure the inspection document has the key provisions of pulp temperatures and sufficient sampling percentages for determining condition defects that are consistent with the USDA protocols. If the survey is missing any one of the mentioned requirements, the entire survey could be compromised evidence in a PACA reparation proceeding.

With respect to exporting product overseas, you must also be certain that the foreign survey reports taken at contract destination in an effort to substantiate the buyer’s claims against the shipper has complete information for you to make a business decision on any adjustment. 

If the buyer is domiciled in the United States they must have a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) license. As such, the PACA has jurisdiction over the export shipment, and will review the survey to determine whether the foreign survey report meets the requirements of the PACA as to whether or not there is a breach of contract on the part of the shipper. 

Since official government inspections cannot be obtained in most foreign countries, the outcome of a claim is dependent on a robust survey report. Therefore, private survey inspections will determine the outcome of a PACA complaint (claim) providing the survey contains the proper information.  Following PACA guidelines, the information required to support a survey inspection report must contain all of the following information:

  • The date when the shipment arrived at destination and when it was made available or accessible for survey must be stated.
  • The date the survey was performed and completed must be in the report and must be distinguished from the date the report was written.
  • The number of cartons present and available for survey must be recorded.
  • All labels and marking on the cartons must be recorded.
  • Pulp temperatures of the produce must be taken from random samples and recorded.
  • The report should show a range of pulp temperatures.
  • The sampling procedures should be described, samples should be random and at least 1% of the shipment.
  • Each defect found must be described in order to give a verbal picture of the defect.
  • The defects must be listed in percentages for each reported defect.
  • All temperature recording devices should be secured. 

Should the survey lack any one of these items, the survey may be ruled as inadequate evidence for the purpose of determining if the load meets contract terms and may result in the PACA rejecting the survey or non-government inspection report as suitable evidence in a PACA reparation proceeding.

I encourage you to review all inspections closely and should you have any questions please contact me directly at or 949-885-2269.