National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program
2012-2013 Report

Executive Summary

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for monitoring the food supply for chemical residues and contaminants, and determination of compliance with maximum residue limits (MRLs) and maximum levels established by Health Canada. This report describes the monitoring activities undertaken by the CFIA between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013 (hereafter referred to as 2012-2013) as part of the National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP).

The NCRMP has operated annually since 1978. Information obtained through this program enables the CFIA to verify compliance with Canadian MRLs and maximum levels and take appropriate follow-up action. It also allows the CFIA to identify trends over time, gauge the effectiveness of policies and programs, and develop strategic plans to minimize potential health risks to Canadians. The NCRMP sampling plans are developed in accordance with internationally accepted Codex Alimentarius principles and guidelines. Samples are analyzed for various chemical residues and contaminants using validated multi-residue and single residue methods by CFIA laboratories and accredited laboratories under contract with the Government of Canada. The results are assessed for compliance with established Canadian MRLs and maximum levels; follow-up and enforcement action is taken as necessary.

In the context of the 2012-2013 NCRMP, over 120 000 tests for residues of veterinary drugs, pesticides, metals and other contaminants were performed on over 19 000 monitoring samples of domestic and imported dairy products, eggs, honey, meat products, fresh fruit and vegetables, processed products, and maple products. These tests produced over three million results. The results of these analyses are summarized and discussed in this report.

All detected chemical residues and contaminants were evaluated to determine if they were compliant with Canadian MRLs and maximum levels. Overall sample compliance rates were high for all commodities tested and the results observed were consistent with those seen in previous years. Similar results were observed for domestic and imported products, and there was no clear relationship between compliance rate and country of origin.

Foods of plant and animal origin were tested for pesticide residues and the overall sample compliance rate was 97.38%. Most pesticide residue violations were associated with pesticides that did not have a specific MRL established and exceeded the general MRL.

Foods of animal origin (dairy products, eggs, honey, meat products) were tested for veterinary drug residues. The overall sample compliance rate was 97.45%. The majority of violations were for commodity-drug combinations for which no MRL has been established.

Foods of animal and plant origin were tested for up to 20 different metals and elements. As there are few MRLs or maximum levels established by Health Canada for metals or elements in food, compliance rates were not calculated. The results for the metals of high toxicological importance with respect to human health (arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead) are described in detail in this report. Samples containing higher concentrations of metals and elements than historically reported were assessed and no human health concerns were identified.

A number of foods of animal and plant origin were tested for various contaminants including melamine, mycotoxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Melamine was not detected in any of the domestic or imported eggs or dairy products tested. Dairy products were tested for the mycotoxin aflatoxin M1 and levels detected were below the Codex maximum level. In all samples tested for PAHs, one or more PAHs were detected. Foods of animal origin were tested for dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Samples containing higher than historically reported levels of these contaminants were assessed and no human health concerns were identified.

All violations were assessed to determine the appropriate follow-up action. These actions can include notification of the producer or importer, follow-up inspections or further directed sampling according to a surveillance plan. Follow-up actions vary according to the magnitude of the health risk, with the objective of preventing any repeat occurrence or further distribution of the product in the marketplace. If Health Canada determines that the product could pose a health risk to consumers or certain segments of the population, a product recall may be initiated.

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