Saturday, July 7, 2012

Comment received on How Safe is Safe....

Dear Mr. Riedel: I am writing in response to your correspondence in which you have expressed your concern with the use of the term “safe” when describing the Canadian food supply. I appreciate the opportunity to respond. Please be assured that the Government of Canada considers issues of food safety to be of the utmost importance. Food safety is the top priority of the CFIA. Sound science, an effective regulatory base, the delivery of effective inspection programs and the fostering of strong partnerships are key to the Agency’s work in safeguarding Canada’s food, animals and plants. In fact, the CFIA conducts surveillance activities to monitor the level of microbial contamination in the food supply and has demonstrated that our food safety systems are safe. Namely, we have observed high levels of compliance through our National Microbiological Monitoring Program. Of particulate note, universally it is recognized that the so called “zero risk” cannot be achieved and therefore doesn’t exist in any areas of human activities, including food that is produced and offered for consumption. Therefore, risk is better described in relative or comparative terms. As for food sources of plant and animal origin, all food products contain micro-organisms that are associated with plants or animals in their natural habitats. The majority of these micro-organisms that are normally found in food are innocuous and would not cause food-borne illness in the vast majority of the population. However, some food-borne organisms are human pathogens that are able to cause food borne illness when contaminated food is ingested. These hazards on occasion are responsible for the outbreaks and sporadic cases of food-borne illness in humans in Canada and world-wide. It is important to note, that the estimate of 11 million episodes of food-borne illness annually in Canada, which you referred to in your letter, is now under revision by the Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with it partners. It is expected that based on new data and improved methodology, this estimate will likely be reduced. Comparably, the US-Center for Disease Control uses a similar approach and has updated their estimates of 76 million to 48 million annually of food-borne episodes in the USA. It is important to remember that these numbers are only estimates. Furthermore, I would like to bring to your attention an independent study titled “World Ranking Food Safety Performance” that was conducted by Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan in 2008 and 2010. The goal of the study was to assess the food safety system and processes in Canada and 16 other countries. Some major factors that were measured for this purpose included: policies and outcomes of how well countries connect with their consumers, surveillance efforts, hygiene practices, information accessibility, a country capacity to contain all relevant risks related to food safety, effectiveness of domestic regulations and governance related to food safety. Based on all categories considered under the study on Food Safety, Canada obtained a superior grade, which is the highest grade available in both years 2008 and 2010. This distinction Canada shares only with five other countries namely: Denmark, Australia, Britain, the USA and Japan. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been working diligently with other federal departments, industry and consumers in order to achieve this level of food safety in Canada and is committed to modernizing and further strengthening our food safety system. I trust this information will be of assistance to you. Thank you for writing. Sincerely, Neil Bouwer Vice President/Vice-président Policy and Programs Branch/Direction générale des politiques et programmes Canadian Food Inspection Agency/Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments 1400 Merival e Road, Tower 2, Floor 3, Room 136 Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y9 Phone: (613) 773-5734 Fax: (613) 773-5791 Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada


  1. Several countries worldwide had already set their own rules and standards in terms of safety of workers, and companies should always render to this requirements for the safety of their workers as well.whmis online course

  2. In other words, the food supply has not been safe in the past, is not safe now and won't be safe in the future - the above is full of argumentum ex stercore tauri....