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Cyanide in apricot kernels

On July 25, 2019, Health Canada published a Notice of Modification to the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods to Add a Maximum Level for Cyanide in Apricot Kernels of 20 parts per million (ppm) total extractable cyanide in apricot kernels sold for human consumption or used as an ingredient in other foods. The new maximum level aligns with the precautionary approaches adopted internationally to manage the potential health risks associated with consuming apricot kernels. This maximum level will be effective January 25, 2020.

You are responsible for the safety of the food you produce or import. After January 25, 2020, you must be able to demonstrate that the concentration of total extractable cyanide in apricot kernels for human consumption is not more than the 20 ppm maximum level.

One way to demonstrate compliance to the maximum level is to test your apricot kernels. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recommends that analyses should be performed by an accredited laboratory. There are two national accreditation bodies in Canada for testing laboratories (ISO 17025), the Standards Council of Canada and the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation. These organisations' websites could be searched to determine whether any Canadian laboratories are accredited to test for total extractable cyanide. If there is no accredited lab in Canada that has a method in their scope for total extractable cyanide, the CFIA would also consider results from an accredited lab in another country, provided the lab is accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement. ILAC provides a search tool that can be used to identify accredited laboratories.

All apricot kernels that do not meet the maximum level of 20 ppm for total extractable cyanide cannot be sold at retail to consumers or used in other foods after January 25, 2020. You should advise your clients to make sure retail stores remove and dispose of any non-compliant products by January 25, 2020.

You are also responsible for making sure your foods comply with the labelling and consumer protection requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). This includes the use of any claims, stated or implied, that food can treat or prevent diseases and health conditions, such as cancer or diabetes. Such claims on foods are subject to mandatory pre-market assessment under the Food and Drugs Act. Health Canada has not reviewed any such claims for apricot kernels sold as a food.

Also, "Vitamin B17" is not a recognized vitamin under the FDR. Therefore, any food, including apricot kernels, making a statement or claim relating to its "Vitamin B17" content would be considered to be in violation of the FDR.

If you have further questions contact your local CFIA office for more information.

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