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2013-2017 Bacterial Pathogens, Viruses and Parasites in Various Food Commodities

Summary

While the food we eat in Canada is among the safest in the world, the consumption of food contaminated with foodborne pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites) can cause food-borne illness. It has been estimated that approximately 4 million (1 in 8) Canadians are affected by food-borne illnesses each year.

Targeted surveys are one of several surveillance activities that CFIA conducts on the Canadian food supply. The purpose of targeted surveys is to generate baseline information on the occurrence of pathogens in food. Targeted surveys can vary in duration from several months to several years depending on the objective of each survey.

The food commodities included in this report are commonly consumed by Canadians across various age groups. Unfortunately, most of these types of foods have been associated with recalls and outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in the past. There are numerous points in the food production chain where contamination with pathogens can occur such as during production, processing, packaging and distribution. Given that most of the commodities covered by this report are consumed without further preparation, the presence of pathogens creates a potential risk for foodborne illnesses.

The purpose of this Interim Report is to provide preliminary results related to on-going surveys that the CFIA is currently conducting on the following commodities:

From April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2017, a total of 19404 samples of the above listed commodities were collected from retail locations in 11 cities across Canada and tested for various pathogens. Interim results show that almost all of the samples tested were free of the pathogens tested for, with 99.4% (19284/19404) of the samples being assessed as satisfactory. Of the 19404 samples tested, 0.4% (88/19404) were assessed as investigative and 0.2% (32/19404) were assessed as unsatisfactory. Most of the targeted surveys in this interim report have a >99% satisfactory rate to date. The only exceptions are the Dried Sprouted Seed survey (96.5% satisfactory) and the Raw Ground Beef & Veal survey (98.8% satisfactory).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted appropriate follow-up activities for samples that were assessed as investigative or unsatisfactory. These follow-up activities may have included additional facility inspections, product recalls and additional sampling. There have been no reported illnesses linked to the contaminated products.

It is important to note that the assessments reported herein are preliminary as the targeted surveys are still underway and consequently, no conclusions can be drawn at this time. It is unlikely, but possible that the assessments may be adjusted if a policy change occurs with respect to a particular pathogen. This report is being provided as a proactive means of sharing a snapshot of the work conducted to date. Final Reports containing further details and a full analysis of the results will be made available in the coming years as the surveys are completed.

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