Safe Water for Food Processing

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is reminding the food industry of the need to have a system in place to demonstrate that they are using safe/potable water in the preparation and processing of food.

Background

The food industry must take all possible measures to ensure the safety of water used for food production and processing.

This document outlines some of the potential waterborne food contaminants and recommends some general actions by industry.

Summary of contaminants

Water is often taken for granted in most food preparation and processing operations. As well as being an ingredient in many foods, it may be used for growing, unloading, fluming, washing, brining, ice manufacture and in sanitation and hygiene programs.

Water safety can never be taken for granted.

Unsafe water - whether the result of direct contamination or improper treatment - may result in a contaminated food product. All foods are at risk but highest among them are ready-to-eat products.

Waterborne food contaminants

Industry should be fully aware of the various possible contaminants, their potential risk to human health and appropriate safety precautions. Typical contaminants include:

  • Bacterial pathogens - Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter and various pathogenic strains of E. coli.
  • Viral pathogens - Norwalk virus, hepatitis virus and other human enteric viruses.
  • Protozoan parasites - Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lambia, Cryptosporidium parvum and Cyclospora.
  • Chemical contaminants that could result from environmental contamination or from a chemical spill, incorrect use of pesticides or cross contamination of the water supply with sewage or industrial waste.

Expectations for industry action

Water contamination is a serious threat. Industry must have a system in place to ensure that they are continuously using safe/potable water in food production and processing. The bottom line is to ensure safe water at all times.

The CFIA reminds industry to:

  • meet water safety requirements for food production, processing and handling, and maintain an action plan in the event of a boil water/water safety alert.
  • establish a communications strategy with the appropriate municipal, provincial or territorial water authorities for the timely exchange of information in the event of a boil water/water safety alert.

Industry is ultimately responsible for safe food. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) verifies compliance with the requirements and takes enforcement action where necessary.

Water is regulated under the following acts and regulations as follows: The Food and Drugs Act, Division 12 (prepackaged water and ice), Meat Inspection Act, the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act including the related regulations for dairy products, egg and egg products, fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, maple syrup and honey products.

The national standard is taken from the Guideline for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

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