Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

September 11, 2009 15:00 ET

Government of Canada Takes Action to Improve Food Safety

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 11, 2009) - The Government of Canada is making significant investments to strengthen Canada's food safety system. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq today announced that the Government will invest $75 million in Canada's food safety system and act on all 57 recommendations made by Independent Investigator Sheila Weatherill.

"The Government of Canada's highest priority is the safety of Canadians," said Minister Ritz. "We are making significant investments to hire more inspectors; update technologies and protocols; and, improve communication so that Canadians have the information they need to protect their families."

"Our government continues to be committed to protecting and improving the health and safety of Canadians," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Nothing can be more fundamental to the health and safety of our families as the safety of the foods we serve them, which is why we continue to take the steps necessary to improve Canada's food safety system and ensure Canadians have the information they need to protect themselves from foodborne illnesses."

The new investments being announced today will improve the Government's ability to prevent, detect and respond to future foodborne illness outbreaks. Among other improvements, the Government will:

- hire 166 new food safety staff with 70 focusing on ready-to-eat-meat facilities;

- provide 24/7 availability of health risk assessment teams to improve support to food safety investigations;

- improve coordination among federal and provincial departments and agencies;

- improve communications to vulnerable populations before and during a foodborne illness outbreak;

- improve tracking of potential foodborne illness outbreaks through a national surveillance system;

- improve detection methods for Listeria monocytogenes and other hazards in food to reduce testing time and enable more rapid response during food safety investigations, as well as expanding the Government's ability to do additional Listeria testing; and

- initiate a third-party audit to make sure Canada's food inspection system has the right resources dedicated to the right priorities.

This investment builds on the Government's 2008 commitment of $113 million for food safety. Already, the Government has made significant changes to Canada's Listeria management strategy, including making environmental testing and reporting mandatory in ready-to-eat meat plants.


BACKGROUNDER

CANADA INVESTS IN FOOD SAFETY

The Government of Canada is investing $75 million over the next three years to further improve Canada's ability to PREVENT, DETECT, and RESPOND to future foodborne illness outbreaks.

We will improve our ability to PREVENT food safety risks by:

- hiring and training an additional 70 ready-to-eat meat inspectors;

- using an independent auditor to conduct a review of what is needed to ensure the Compliance Verification System (CVS) is as effective as possible in overseeing the food safety controls applied in meat processing;

- continuing to support the development, implementation and maintenance of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems in federally-registered meat and poultry establishments;

- reviewing policies, programs, manuals, regulations and directives to ensure they reflect current food safety practices and any changes that have been required of industry;

- increasing awareness and knowledge among the public, including those most vulnerable to foodborne illness, about the health risks associated with unsafe food handling practices and foodborne illness; and

- developing and maintaining a food safety website which will give Canadians a single source of quick, easy access to food safety information to help protect their health and that of their families.

We will improve our ability to DETECT foodborne illness risk by increasing surveillance. This includes:

- implementing a national public health surveillance system to improve rapid identification and tracking of potential foodborne illness outbreaks;

- collaborating with provinces and territories to strengthen existing laboratory networks and making steps towards a national network among relevant laboratories of food safety partners;

- developing improved detection methods for Listeria monocytogenes and other microbial hazards in food to reduce testing time and enable more rapid response during food safety investigations;

- analyzing data and identifying trends in reported illnesses to develop and monitor early warning indicators; and

- strengthening the diagnostic tools used in our laboratories to support our ability to trace the origins of food hazards such as Listeria monocytogenes.

We will improve our ability to RESPOND to foodborne illness emergencies by:

- providing 24/7 availability of health risk assessment teams to respond quickly to food safety investigations;

- strengthening the protocol used by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks to include, among other things, simulation exercises to promote response readiness at all levels of government;

- formalizing an "Incident Command Structure," which will help all partners involved in the response to work together under a common command configuration;

- sharing best practices for management of food recall situations among provinces, territories, the federal government, and industry; and

- developing communications and marketing materials to support the delivery of timely information to Canadians.

We will build on past investments in food safety

The investment of $75 million builds on the Government's 2008 commitment of $113 million for food and consumer safety through the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan.

The Government has also undertaken a number of steps to reduce the risk of future foodborne illness outbreaks occurring. Significant measures include:

- tightening food safety control in federally-registered plants that produce ready-to-eat meat products. The enhanced requirements focus on early detection, reporting, and control of Listeria risks by both government and industry;

- working with international partners to ensure that Listeria controls in imported ready-to-eat meat products are equivalent to the new Canadian directives;

- increasing equipment capacity at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) to improve surge capacity during outbreaks. The NML has also been conducting research on Listeria to improve understanding of the bacteria and how it can be controlled; and

- allowing the use of sodium acetate and sodium diacetate as food preservatives in a number of foods, including ready-to-eat meats. These food additives can be used by food producers to help control the growth of harmful bacteria such as Listeria.

We will move forward to continue protecting the health of Canadians

The Government is committed to ongoing review and analysis so that we can continuously reduce the risks that foodborne illnesses pose to Canadians. We will do this through an assessment of our resources, an examination of the governance and management of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada, and a move towards updated legislation and regulations.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz
    Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister
    for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Meagan Murdoch
    Press Secretary
    613-759-1059
    or
    Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
    Minister of Health
    Josee Bellemare
    613-957-0200