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How we decide to recall a food product

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements are being phased in over the following 12 to 30 months. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

When there is reason to believe that food is contaminated or does not follow federal regulations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) initiates a 5 step process to investigate and recall product if necessary.

Triggers

Several triggers can start a food safety investigation, which could lead to a food recall.

Food safety investigation

Food safety investigations are complex and involve several essential steps to determine if a food recall is required. When dealing with potentially unsafe food, the agency acts as quickly as possible to collect information and make decisions. Investigations are carried out by a variety of experts at the agency, including inspection staff.

Objectives

To determine:

Traceback/traceforward

On-site activities

Health risk assessment

If a potential health risk has been identified, a formal request for a health risk assessment (HRA) is submitted to Health Canada. The purpose is to determine what level of risk a specific food presents for the Canadian population.

Health Canada determines the level of health risk by addressing the following questions:

Recall process

A food recall is an action taken by a company to remove potentially unsafe food products or products from the market that do not comply with relevant laws. It is the responsibility of industry to remove the product from sale or distribution.

The agency's role is to inform the public, oversee implementation of the recall and verify that industry has removed recalled products from store shelves.

Decision making

Recall implementation

Informing the public

Recall verification

Follow-up

The CFIA may heighten oversight and testing for a defined period of time, review its standards and policies or work with industry sectors or foreign countries to address trends that go beyond a particular company, sector or recall.

After recalled product is removed from the marketplace, the agency continues to work with the processor, manufacturer or importer to ensure that any problems that led to the recall are resolved.

Additional information

A record of all recalls (Class I, II and III), including those that did not include a public warning, can be found in our Food recall reports.

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