PI-005: Chapter 5 - Seed Potato Crop Inspection
5.0 Crop Inspection - Administrative Procedures

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As an inspector, it is important to build and maintain a strong working relationship with industry and be considerate of private property. Examples of good public relations for CFIA inspectors conducting crop inspections include:

  • Always make a point of asking the grower or their representative to accompany you to the field for the crop inspection;
  • Close all farm gates when entering and leaving fields unless otherwise agreed upon;
  • Never discuss or compare one grower's crop inspection readings with another grower;
  • Avoid unnecessary damage to crops while driving between fields or while conducting crop inspections;
  • Take appropriate biosecurity measures, e.g. clean boots, change clothing if necessary, clean vehicle, use disinfectant as appropriate, etc.

It is the grower's responsibility to ensure that the crops entered for certification are ready for inspection. This can be done by, the grower visually checking each crop status or by hiring crop specialist to scout and rogueFootnote 1 the crops on a scheduled basis.

Proper roguing removes diseased and foreign plants and tubers from the field prior to inspections. It is not adequate to leave plants in the furrows, head lands or next to the field as these plants can still be a source of inoculum for non-infected plants.

5.1 Scheduling Inspection

Once a CFIA inspector has received an Application for Seed Potato Crop Inspection Grower's Declaration (CFIA/ACIA 1317) which has been reviewed and approved, the following items should be considered when planning inspection activities.

  • Knowledge of the farm unit location, including the number and size of fields, will help determine how long the inspection(s) will take;
    • Understanding the physical characteristics, disease reactions, growth habit, and time to crop maturity for varieties listed on the application is necessary to conduct a crop inspection appropriately
  • Proper Timing of crop inspections is very important:
    • First inspection should be 40-60 days after planting (plant height at least 25-35 cm);
    • Subsequent inspections (not final), if necessary, should be timed at 7-14 day intervals after the first inspection;
    • Final inspection should be conducted approximately 60-90 days after planting (approximately 20-30 days after the first inspection) depending on crop maturity and variety.
  • It is important for the inspector to communicate with the grower to ensure the final inspection occurs before vine killing takes place, making the timing of this inspection crucial for early maturing cultivars.

After ensuring the inspector has a good understanding of the points above, the grower must be contacted to schedule an inspection. Consideration must be given to the following:

  • The stage of plant growth, in order to determine the most appropriate timing for crop inspection;
  • Status of roguing activities, since growers will likely want to rogue the crop prior to inspection in order to bring the crop within the regulatory standards for the applicable class; It is also relevant to mention to the grower that, because of the serious complexities of certain diseases, it is most often necessary to maintain a constant effort for the tracking, roguing and application of any phytosanitary measures throughout the growing season;
    • Growers have to rogue early to not hinder the proper timing of CFIA inspections.
  • Safe field re-entry times after pesticide application, for reasons of occupational health and safety;
  • Preferred dates to conduct inspection activities;
  • Environmental conditions, e.g. drought, environmental stress.

5.2 Final Review Prior to Field Entry

Once at the farm unit, the inspector should (if not known) introduce themselves and take the time to discuss the inspection process with the growers or representatives. The following is a list of items for the inspector to address prior to field entry:

  • Update the grower or representatives on any policy changes or new regulations which may impact their operation;
  • Verify that the information on theapplication (CFIA/ACIA 1317) remains accurate. Any amendments must be initialled and dated by both the inspector and the grower or representatives; the inspector must identify and gather any additional supporting documents if required;
  • Identify withdrawals and/or additions, as appropriate, from the certification process and proceed with refunds or payments as per D-95-13;
  • Confirm that non-certified potatoes or Certified class seed potatoes were not planted on the farm unit;
    • Non-compliance with this requirement will result in the application being rejected and the farm unit will be treated as a new one and be required to meet the relevant conditions as a new seed potato grower should they wish to apply for crop inspection in future years, see section 4.3.
  • Review field location and class of seed planted in each field; if a map was not supplied with the application, determine whether a map of the field can be made available to the CFIA for future reference;
  • When the crop has been planted with multiple seed sources, request how the different sources were positioned in the field.
  • All new lots (rented or traded fields) from outside the seed farm unit of an existing grower that have been used to produce seed potatoes must be exempt from potatoes, including volunteer plant, in the last two previous years
    • This requirement does not apply if the grower can provide proof to the inspector that the rented or loaned field was used to produce potato seed in the previous two years.
  • Verify the safety for field entry following any chemical applications;
  • Request that any unused Seed Potato Certification Tags or Records of Bulk Movement Certificates issued for the previous year's crops be returned;
  • Any issues that may affect inspections; such as disease (e.g. late blight).

An inspector should possess the following materials when conducting a crop inspection:

  • A signed grower's Application for Seed Potato Crop Inspection Grower's Declaration (CFIA/ACIA 1317)
  • Map of the fields (if supplied by the grower)
  • Inspector's Field Notes(CFIA/ACIA 1298) (Appendix 4) filled with grower, variety, field number, class, seed source, hectares, and proper minimum counts of each field
  • Seed Potato Crop Inspection Manual and applicable directives, variety descriptions
  • Seeds Regulations Part II
  • Inspector's designation card and badge
  • Pen/pencil
  • Approved disinfectant (mixed to label rates), sprayer and brush or bucket
  • Knife
  • Calculator
  • Hand lens
  • Handheld counter
  • Plastic bags for plant samples
  • Appropriate footwear, sun screen, insect repellent and protective clothing (e.g., rain gear, hat, chaps and gaiters)

5.3 Crop Inspection

When a CFIA inspector is ready to start inspection, he/she should ask the grower or grower's representative to accompany him/her to the field. The first inspection is the initial opportunity for the inspector to observe the growing crop. At this time, the plants should normally show all of the characteristics of the variety and most disease symptoms should be identifiable.

In terms of procedure and preparation, subsequent (if applicable) and final inspections are to be conducted in the same manner as the first inspection. The only notable difference is that the field entry point should never be the same as the one used in previous inspections to avoid following the identical route as the one followed during first inspection. This procedure gives the inspector more confidence in stating that the crop inspection report is an accurate reflection of the crop at that time of inspection.

General elements to observe and note on the Inspector's field notes (CFIA/ACIA 1298) (appendix 4) or on the Report of Field Inspection (CFIA/ACIA 1284) (Appendix 5) while performing a crop inspection include, but are not limited to; variety integrity, virus content, insects present, possible varietal mixture, overall crop condition (stand, vigour, and cultivation), bacterial and fungal diseases such as late blight, BRR, blackleg, wilts, abnormal plant symptoms, environmental factors, etc.

The inspector should also consider the field size to ensure it corresponds to what is declared on the grower's application. If the field size is obviously in question it should be verified for accuracy.

When entering a field it is important to verify that the variety you are about to inspect is the variety specified on the grower's application. Certification of a crop should not proceed when the variety integrity is in question.

During crop inspection, in certain situations the inspector may need to take a sample. For more information on sampling, please refer to section 5.7 of this manual.

5.3.1 Biosecurity

Biosecurity processes are a set of practices used by CFIA inspectors during visits to farms or to farm establishments and facilities. They are also intended to minimize the introduction, transmission and spread of pathogens and pests in plant populations.

The CFIA believes it is important for its employees to put into practice biosecurity processes during their inspections. In so doing, the CFIA addresses industry concerns that its inspection staff may be spreading pests to plants.

When conducting inspections concerning seed potato crop inspection, CFIA staff must:

  • understand and apply the appropriate level of biosecurity to prevent the transmission and spread of pathogens and potato pests;
  • promote on farm biosecurity best practices; and
  • encourage adherence to and implementation of biosecurity best practices within inspected farms.

Prior to complete the seed potato crop inspection, CFIA staff must be familiar with the biosecurity programs of the inspected farms and be fully prepared to enter and leave an establishment without posing a risk to biosecurity.

*Important: CFIA staff must implement a biosecurity level that is appropriate to the company being visited. However, certain establishments may have stricter biosecurity protocols. Should the biosecurity protocol of a facility differ from that of the CFIA, inspection staff must comply with the strictest standard, regardless of whether it is an industry or a CFIA protocol.

For more information related to biosecurity, please refer to the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide - Proactive Management of Plants Resources

5.3.2 Prior to Field Entry

  • Prior to arriving on the production unit, ensure that your vehicle has been cleaned and relatively free of soil. Pressure washing of the vehicle is recommended, prior to arriving at a farm unit, to remove any soil and plant debris that may be on or under the vehicle.
  • If possible, park your vehicle in a location such as the side of the road or driveway, as to avoid direct entry into the field.
  • Carefully clean and disinfect footwear and equipment (should be performed when arriving and leaving a farm unit).
  • Begin with the highest class to be inspected that day on the farm unit and end with the lowest class. This is a good practice to reduce the probability of spreading/vectoring mechanically transmissible pest i.e; bacteria, fungus and viruses. If it is not possible to start the inspection with the higher class, boots and protective clothing disinfection must be done prior to proceed to another class inspection.
  • Schedule inspections of crops, determined to be infested with late blight outbreaks at the end of the day.

5.3.3 During the Inspection

During the crop inspection, the inspector should take notes of all observations on diseases, virus, varietal mixtures, or any other aspects i.e isolation conditions or late blight. In this case, please do not forget that the inspector's duty is a visual inspection and it is important to note all observations.

The inspection should be done according to the patterns presented in section 7.1.4.

At the time of inspection, consideration should be given on the pattern choice and on the evaluation of disease level/virus content/varietal mixture, if the crop was planted with different seed sources. This information is very important as if the crop does not meet the standards, the inspector may choose to proceed with separating the field in order to allow certification for a portion of the field and reject the crop planted with a higher virus level seed source.

5.3.3.1 Suspension of Crop Inspection During the Inspection

At the first inspection, the inspector can suspend the inspection if, after a minimum number of counts (i.e 2 to 5 counts) on a portion of the field, he/she determines there is a problem that can be corrected by the grower. In a situation when a grower used more than one seed source in his/her field, the area to be inspected before any termination of the crop inspection could vary.

Following any suspension of a crop inspection, the inspector must inform the grower for which reason he/she has temporarily suspended crop inspection. The objective of the suspension is to give to the grower the opportunity to apply corrective measures (refer to section 5.4.1). The inspector needs to make sure that the grower understands the situation, and if, plants have to be rogued out because of excessive levels of diseases, viruses or mixture, and the grower is capable to do so. The inspector may choose to review the problematic areas in the field with the grower and allow them time to correct the problem prior to continuing inspections.

Once the inspector has discussed his observations with the grower, he may inform the grower that corrective measures are needed for the crop to maintain the class standards. Please refer to section 5.4 actions to be taken when crops do not meet standards.

Note: It is important to understand that if at the first field visit, the inspector decides to suspend its inspection prior to its completion; this portion of activity does not constitute the first inspection. Because the inspector stopped its activity while he was doing it and that the crop has not been totally inspected, we can't qualify it as an inspection. By definition, the first inspection is the complete first inspection of the crop.

5.3.3.2 Termination of Crop Inspection During the Inspection

During the inspection process, or upon arrival at the farm unit, conditions can be encountered which will warrant immediate termination of inspection of a specific crop, or termination of all crop inspections on the farm unit. For example, the inspection of a single crop may be terminated immediately under any of the following conditions:

  • Inspection counts show excessive levels of disease or varietal mixture whereby the crop is clearly ineligible for Certifiedclass, as noted in section 5.4.
  • No blank row (2 metres minimum) separating two crops of different varieties (a grower may be given an opportunity, time line of one week from initial finding, to remove a row between the two varieties).
  • There is no clear marking or separation (10 metres of blank row at both ends of the field) separating the specific crop from different classes of the same variety, and it is not possible to assign a lower class as noted in section 5.4. This may be the case if the lower class crop is rejected.
  • The inspector becomes aware that the crop has been treated with a sprout inhibitor or has been exposed to a sprout inhibitor.
  • As a result of late planting, lack of cultivation, excessive presence of weeds, leaf injury, pesticide or fertilizer injury, it is not possible to determine by visual inspection the variety purity or disease incidence.
  • Equipment used in relation to planting, cultivating, or spraying of the crop has been exposed to contamination by regulated pathogens for e.g.: PSTVd, that are detrimental to the crop, unless the equipment, each time before entering a crop of a farm unit, has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in such a way as to destroy the regulated pathogens and the grower demonstrates to the inspector that the clean-up and disinfection have been completed.
  • The pathogen PSTVd is known to have been detected in the crop, or the seed source used to plant the crop.

Plus, all crop inspections on a farm unit shall be terminated under any of the following conditions:

  • The pathogen causing BRR or a disease of quarantine significance has been detected.
  • Non-certified or Certified class seed potatoes were planted on the farm unit.
  • In the case of a new grower or existing grower, the crop is growing in a field where Certified class or non-certified seed potatoes were planted in the previous two years.
  • The inspector has substantive knowledge that equipment used to plant or cultivate the crop was used in a BRR infected field or a non-certified potato planted field and may be contaminated by a pathogen such as, but not limited to, BRR.
  • A crop is being grown in a field where there has been the occurrence of BRR within the previous two years and the field had not been verified free of potatoes including volunteers during that period.

5.3.4 Upon Completion of Inspection

  • Advise growers or their representative of the inspection results, i.e virus content, blackleg, varietal mixtures, inappropriate separation, insects, blight, etc.; and inform them of any action required prior to the next inspection in order to meet the applicable class requirements. This includes roguing, separation for varietal purity, notification prior to vine (top) killing etc.
  • If the grower or their representative is not available upon completion of inspection, contact the grower as early as possible by telephone, fax or email to provide results.
  • Upon completion of daily crop inspection, on a farm unit, and at the end of each day, clean and disinfect footwear and equipment prior to leaving the premise.
  • When possible clothing should be changed between each farm unit.  If wearing disposable gear, discard and replace with new gear, (i.e. Tyvek pants). Footwear and other non-disposable equipment and protective clothing, required to conduct crop inspection, should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Washing and cleaning the vehicle between farm units is recommended if dirty (soiled tires, wheel wells, etc.).
  • Arrangements for the next inspection should be made before leaving the farm unit.

Growers planning on testing for BRR using stem samples should discuss this with the CFIA inspector at this time. It is the responsibility of the CFIA inspector to determine the earliest date a crop would be eligible for stem sampling. For further information on stem sampling for BRR inspection staff should refer to the Directive D-97-12.

While on the Farm Unit, record all crop inspection results directly on the Inspector's Field Notes (CFIA/ACIA 1298) and upon completion of inspection, determine if the observations recorded are consistent with the class intended. Changes to information on the report must be initialled and dated, and the format for recording information (blanks, dashes, lines, checkmarks, etc.) must be consistent throughout. Comments or any actions or samples taken should be recorded and dated. Any plant samples sent for lab testing must be recorded in the remarks section of the Inspector's Field Notes (CFIA/ACIA 1298). The grower is to be advised that samples are being sent to the laboratory.

5.3.5 Subsequent Inspection

A subsequent inspection is not a first or a final inspection. A subsequent inspection is used or may be necessary to review a prior assessment of a crop, if the inspector feels that he was not in a position to accurately determine disease expression or varietal mixtures at the time of their first inspection. Subsequent inspections are not to be used to allow the grower time to rogue to attain the desired class if the crop does not meet inspection standards on first crop inspection.

5.3.6 Notes on Final Inspection

One of the main focal points of the final crop inspection is the detection of varietal mixtures, possible evidence of current season virus infections, wilts and BRR. The BRR pathogen can show symptoms after approximately 70 - 90 days after planting. Final crop inspection is generally done at or close to full flowering time so it is especially important to pay attention to the floral characteristics and foliage heights of the variety being inspected. This is an opportunity to identify foreign varieties which may have delayed or different maturity, and to ensure the crop meets the disease tolerances for the required class.

As the growing season progresses, exposure to pathogens increases and the inspector should be aware of environmental conditions, such as temperature and moisture, which may influence disease levels. In addition, disease inoculum levels increase over time and potential for viral spread from virus transmitting aphids is enhanced. Virus concentration levels within plants will increase over the growing season and plants which were symptomless could now show symptoms as virus replication occurs. Inspectors should remain aware of current season virus infection which may appear as circular pockets of symptomatic plants when infested aphids move into a field and spread virus in a circular manner from the point of introduction. In addition, late blight, blackleg and early blight can develop rapidly at this time as heavy dews at night create an environment favourable for their development and spread.

5.4 Crops Not Meeting Standards

A crop may fail first or subsequent inspections and is subject to rejection or downgrading to applicable class for a variety of reasons. When a crop is downgraded or rejected, the inspector must indicate their readings and observations on the Inspector's Field Notes (CFIA/ACIA 1298) and identifies the reason(s) for rejection.

When a crop does not meet the standards applied for, the inspector must inform the grower of the inspection results. Any action required prior to the next inspection in order to meet applicable class requirements is the responsibility of the grower. A corrective action should happen prior to the next inspection and includes rouging, separation for varietal purity, etc. Recommendation of any corrective measures is at the CFIA discretion and allows the grower to take actions for this crop to maintain or meet the standards. However, it is important to note that following a crop evaluation, the CFIA may decide, at the time of inspection, to reject or downgrade the crop, without previous recommendation of corrective action.

5.4.1 Recommending Corrective Actions

Based on regulation requirements and field observations, the inspector must determine the status of the crop inspected. To assist the inspector to make such a decision, the following is a non-exhaustive list of criteria that could be used in order to assist in determining if corrective action (roguing or other) should be administered or not to determine the crop status.

Criteria that could justify the recommendation of the issuance of a corrective action:

  1. Observations during the first crop inspection are higher than the results expected for the applied class standard but within the following tolerances:
    • Class: Certified
    • Varietal Mixture: 1%
    • Virus: 3%
    • Black leg + virus: 3%
  2. Crop inspection results after the first inspection are equivalent or slightly higher than the minimal class standard applied for. As the virus content is likely to be higher at the second inspection, it is better to recommend a corrective action (i.e roguing).
  3. When the total areas for roguing or any other corrective actions are necessary and within reason, it is realistic that the corrective actions will be taken, i.e determine the area to be rogued.
  4. Following observations, the inspector is confident that with subsequent inspections, they will still be able to determine the criteria for the crop status.
  5. The inspector shows the grower affected plants with virus or any other problems and he is able to recognize the symptoms easily. At this time, the inspector is confident that the grower will be able to remove enough problematic plants by roguing.
  6. The variety, crop condition and maturity (plant size, senescence, etc.) are at optimal conditions.
  7. The farm history has showed its capacity and efficacy to rogue fields with success.
  8. Corrective actions are put in place immediately or within a given period of time by the inspector.
  9. Any other possible reason.

A recommendation for a corrective measure should not be issued for the same problem twice. Failing to correct the situation, the crop concerned will be downgraded or rejected from the Canadian Certification Program.

BMP - Based on the information received from the inspector, the grower could submit to the CFIA an action plan, verbal or written, presenting the corrective measures which will be deployed in the fields concerned in order to correct the situation.

When possible, the producer should initiate the implementation of the corrective actions while the inspector is on the farm unit in order to be able to refer to him, if needed. Once the corrective actions requested are completed, the producer must contact the inspector to conduct the first complete inspection, a subsequent inspection or the final inspection.

5.4.2 Crop Down Classed or Decertified

A crop not meeting the standards for the class applied for will be downgraded to the class for which the standards are met. Crops that are downgraded will continue to be inspected, but will be required to meet the standards for an appropriate class. Reasons for downgrading a crop may include:

  • Inspection counts show disease or varietal mixture in excess of standards.
  • In case of no clear marking or separation, an indentation of a minimum of 10 metres of blank row at both ends of the field for crops of the same variety and different classes, or a separation (i.e; blank row), between the two crops of the same variety, the two crops will be downgraded to the lower of the 2 classes. If they are different varieties refer to section 5.4.1 of this manual.

If the crop does not meet the standards for Certified class seed potatoes on the first or during subsequent or final inspection, the crop must be rejected as seed. The inspector must indicate the reason for the rejection on the Report of Field  Inspection (CFIA/ACIA 1284) (Appendix 5). Rejected crops require no further inspection in regards to seed potato certification. However, they must be recorded in MCAP.

5.5 Conditions Warranting Rescheduling of Crop Inspection

A crop inspection may be rescheduled if:

  • The plant growth or environmental conditions are not favourable for a good inspection (e.g. strong winds, excessive presence of weeds, wilted plants due to drought, recently cultivated, insufficient plant growth, etc.).
  • Excessive foliar damage is present (e.g. damage from frost, hail, insect damage, fungus, etc.).
  • The environmental conditions are not safe. Most pesticides have safe field re-entry times listed on the label (e.g. 24- 72 hours). Encourage growers to post signs at the edge of the field which indicate any chemicals applied and date of safe re-entry. Consulting the appropriate guides is recommended to determine a specific chemical safe re-entry time.

5.6 Official Reporting of all Crop Inspection Results

Once the inspector has returned to the office (after final crop inspection), the Report of Field Inspection (CFIA/ACIA 1284) is produced from the Inspector's Field Notes (CFIA/ACIA 1298) and is entered into the MCAP system and becomes the finished copy of the crop inspection. All information contained within the Inspector's Field Notes is transcribed except any personal notes not pertinent to the final classification and designation of that crop (e.g., lot history, etc.). All corrections to the pre-printed information on the report must be initialled and dated by the inspector. All areas on thereport requiring an inspector's name and date must be filled in.

Upon completion of all crop inspections on a farm unit for the season, the original copy of the Report of Field Inspection (CFIA/ACIA 1284 ) are to be filed in the local CFIA office. A copy of each Report of Field Inspection must be provided to the grower along with the Growing Crop Certificate (CFIA/ACIA 1318) (Section 6 and Appendix 6) as soon as they are ready.

Note: All field reports and growing crop certificates should be checked for accuracy and proper completion, ideally by another inspector, prior to sending them to the grower.

5.7 Sample Collection and Submission

Sampling is a routine function of an inspector's duties.

Sample collection and laboratory diagnosis may be required under various circumstances. It is essential that inspectors understand that an inspection, to assess various factors in a crop i.e; common virus present, blackleg, etc. to the regulatory tolerances established in the Seeds Regulations Part II, is based on a visual observations. A laboratory test can help to distinguish a disease versus a physiological condition, or to confirm field observations. The inspector, who wants to get confirmation of his /her diagnosis, in particular cases, may consult his supervisor or RPO for help or complementary information. If decided that a sample is taken, inform the RPO and/or APS.

There are other circumstances which could warrant sampling for laboratory analysis including, but not limited to, importing countries phytosanitary certification requirements for Canadian seed potatoes, suspecting the presence of a new pest or disease, investigative testing, surveys, or where there is suspicion of a zero tolerance regulated pest such as PSTVd, BRR, or a quarantine pest, for example potato cyst nematode.

The supervisor, the RPO and/or APS should be informed immediately when a sample is taken. The grower should also be advised of all samples taken from the farm unit for further analysis.

Samples should be taken according to relevant protocols and detailed instructions from Program Branch and/or the appropriate labs. Depending on various testing purposes, different parts of an individual plant such as leaves, stems, roots or tubers showing symptoms (or not, as appropriate) may need to be collected. Samples taken should be noted in the remarks section of the Inspector's Field Notes(CFIA/ACIA 1298) and include the date of sampling and the reason for taking the sample. The Plant Health Potato web form in the Laboratory Sample Tracking System (LSTS) must be completed for each submission and submitted online and by e-mail to the appropriate laboratory prior to shipping the samples. The submission form must contain the following information:

  • Grower's name, farm unit;
  • Crop year;
  • Grower number;
  • Identifier number (may use certificate number of the field);
  • Variety;
  • Sample type and size;
  • Plant genus: Solanum and species: tuberosum;
  • Reason for submission (specific suspect diseases or virus strains);
  • Date collected;
  • Local sample ID;
  • Individual collecting the sample;
  • Inspector submitting the sample.

Samples must be labelled, packaged and shipped to the appropriate labs depending what analysis should be conducted on the sample. Consult with the lab and the RPO or APO to confirm appropriate shipping methods and the destination.

Note: It is recommended to not ship any samples if they will arrive at the lab on weekends and official holidays unless prior arrangements have been made. CFIA staff is usually not available to receive samples on weekends and holidays and it may result in deteriorated samples being no longer acceptable for analysis.

Results will be released to the inspector who has submitted the sample and any other identified supervisor or program officer. In some cases, such as a Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus positive or a detection of a quarantine pest, only to the Area Potato Specialist and the National Manager of the Potato Section will be initially notified. Additionally, results can be distributed as needed upon request if there are special requirements. Laboratory analysts will not give out verbal results. All results must be approved and released in accordance with standard operating procedures in place in the appropriate CFIA labs. Results will be only distributed internally within the CFIA.

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