Canadian food recalls up as inspections increase
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 14-Oct-2011
The number of food recalls in Canada has increased in the past year – and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it is a trend that is likely to continue, as it boosts the number of inspectors and frequency of testing.
The number of recalls was up 24% in the past year, at 263, from 212 during the previous year, according to CFIA figures.
The Canadian recall system works on a voluntary basis, and the agency told FoodNavigator-USA that increased awareness and testing by industry in Canada and the United States is part of the reason for an increase in recall incidents. The CFIA has a database of food recall incidents, which it has published on its website since November 1, 2009.
“It is important to note that the vast majority of recall incidents are triggered by sampling, testing and effective information sharing between governments, industry and other partners and stakeholders, not by reported illness,” a CFIA spokesperson told this publication. “This demonstrates that the recall system is proactive, prevention-focused and effective.”
She said that the number of food recall incidents has remained relatively stable over the past four years, at about 230 a year, but this year’s increase could continue as the agency continues to implement its five-year Food Safety Action Plan to modernize and strengthen Canada’s food safety system, started in 2008.
In particular, the CFIA has increased product sampling and testing under the plan, and inspection staff has increased from 4,165 in March 2006 to 4,898 in March 2011.
The agency spokesperson added that other factors linked to the increase include greater food safety cooperation and information sharing to identify risks; new testing and reporting requirements for Listeria for Canadian producers; and changes in foodborne pathogen reporting requirements in the US.
The ongoing overhaul of Canada’s food safety system can be traced back to the 2008 listeriosis outbreak linked to deli meats from Maple Leaf. The outbreak claimed 20 lives and led to the biggest product recall in Canadian history.