Majority of food found safe in Canada

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

14,307 tests were done on 5,234 domestic and imported products
14,307 tests were done on 5,234 domestic and imported products

Related tags Meat products Foodborne illness Escherichia coli

The majority of food samples meet Health Canada safety guidelines and standards, according to a report.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA's) National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) tested foods for microbial hazards and extraneous material such as glass and metal objects.

Testing covers red meat and poultry, shell eggs and egg, dairy, and fresh and processed fruit and vegetables.

During the 2011/12 fiscal year, 14,307 tests were performed on 5,234 domestic and imported products. 9,049 tests were on 3,678 domestic products and 5,258 tests on 1,556 imported items.

Non-compliances were found in meat, dairy, produce and glass and canned products.

CFIA said that when contamination did occur, samples were subject to food safety investigations and follow-up activities.

Meat testing

Most RTE meat products are subjected to heat treatment, fermentation, spices and/or smoking.

delicatessen meat
Dry cured products do not receive heat treatment

Dry cured products, such as salamis and hams, do not receive heat treatment but are required to be free E. coli O157:H7, though low levels of S. aureus are acceptable.

RTE meat products were sampled and tested for E. coli O157:H7 (on fermented RTE meat only), L. monocytogenes and Salmonella spp.

There were 1,560 tests on 1,120 domestic products determined to be 99.6% compliant. The 0.4% non-compliance was due to four samples testing positive for L. monocytogenes.

In addition, 342 tests were performed on 169 imported RTE meat products. They were 98.2% compliant with two samples testing positive for Salmonella spp. and one positive for L. monocytogenes.

Although the majority of Canada’s imported RTE meat products are from the US, all three unsatisfactory samples were from Italy. 

Species verification

The CFIA said that from a food safety perspective species verification is used as an indication of sanitary control within an establishment.

Selected products have been ground to the point where it is impossible to determine through visual examination what species has been used.

In 2011/12 610 species verification tests were done on 156 meat products, of which 98.1% were compliant.

Of the 121 domestic meat products sampled 98.3% were compliant, with two single species raw meat products indicating the presence of beef and pork meat.

Thirty-five imported meat products from six countries were sampled. Of these, 97.1% were compliant. One single species product from the US was positive for beef and pork meat.

Fruit, veg and dairy

Sampling of imported and domestic fresh vegetables was primarily composed of leafy greens, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, green onions and sprouts.

In total, 692 fresh vegetables and 100 RTE fresh-cut vegetables were subjected to 3,327 tests.

In the 316 domestic fresh vegetables, 60 samples were sprouts and six were assessed as unsatisfactory due to high levels of generic E. coli and faecal coliforms.

Cheese mostly compliant

Domestic and imported cheeses were sampled and analyzed for generic E. coli, E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., S. aureus, and L. monocytogenes.

In total 339 domestic traditional cheeses were subjected to 1,555 tests. The traditional cheeses were 97.1% compliant with 10 assessed as unsatisfactory.

Four tested positive for L. monocytogenes, four for S. aureus, and two for Staphylococcal enterotoxins.

Cheeses imported from 21 countries were also tested. 268 imported traditional cheeses were subjected to 1,199 tests and 95.9% of these products were compliant.

The 11 samples assessed as unsatisfactory were imported from four countries. One from Egypt and three from Italy had high levels of generic E. coli.

One sample from Portugal was unsatisfactory due to the presence of S. aureus. While from France one had high levels of generic E. coli, three contained S. aureus, one contained L. monocytogenes and one contained L. monocytogenes and S. aureus.

Glass and canned products

Products packaged in glass containers are sampled for the presence of glass fragments.

glass jar_bottle
Glass contaminated was assessed

24 jars were assessed to determine the presence, size and number of glass fragments within each container.

During 2011/12, 216 tests were performed on nine samples (24 jars per sample) and determined to be 88.9% compliant.

The nine imported samples were from six countries of origin. One sample from India was assessed as unsatisfactory due to the presence of glass particles in eight of the 24 jars.

Canned tomato products were tested for non-viable mould filaments to assess the quality of the tomatoes used.

Nine domestic and 17 imported canned tomato products were sampled and tested. Of these two domestic and eight imported products (all from Italy) contained a high number of mould filaments, resulting in 77.8% and 52.9% compliance respectively.

Although the presence of mould does not pose a health risk to consumers it is an indication that bruised or damaged tomatoes were used.

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