Children's Food Project – 2007-2008 Report on sampling

Executive Summary

The main objectives of the 2007-2008 Children's Food Project were:

  • to assess the compliance status for pesticide residues in foods consumed by children aged 3 to 15 years;
  • to sample ethnic foods;
  • to provide data to Health Canada that can be used for risk assessment of foods consumed by children.

In the 2007-2008 Children's Food Project, a total of 836 processed food samples were purchased in the Ottawa area. The samples included a variety of grain products, dairy products, processed vegetable and fruit products, prepared lunches/ready-to-eat meals and honey. All samples were obtained from grocery stores; specifically, one national chain (including organic and kosher products) and a number of smaller ethnic grocery stores (Chinese, Indian, Latin American and Middle Eastern). The samples were analyzed for pesticide residues and metals. A total of 2,199 analytical tests were performed.

Samples were analyzed for pesticide residues using a multi-residue method that detects 300 individual carbamate, organochlorine and organophosphate compounds. Specific single-residue analysis methods were used to detect alar, amitraz, and ethylene thiourea (ETU). Samples were also analyzed for metals using an analytical method that detects 15 different metals – aluminum, arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, mercury, manganese, nickel, lead, selenium, tin, titanium, and zinc.

Of the 836 samples tested, 621 (74.3%) contained no detected pesticide residues. The remaining 215 samples (25.7%) had detected levels of pesticide residues, with 36 (4.3%) containing more than one chemical residue type. Of the 215 samples with detected pesticide residues, 12 (1.4% of all samples) contained a pesticide residue in excess of its Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) and were therefore in violation of paragraph 4(d) of the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). None of the violative pesticide residues were found to pose a human health risk. The majority of samples tested for pesticide residues (greater than 98.6%) were in compliance with Canadian MRLs.

The 836 samples were also analyzed for metals. Many of the metals analyzed occur naturally in food and are essential nutrients. Increased levels of metals such as aluminum, copper and tin may occur in food as a result of their use 1) as food additives, 2) as components of pesticides and 3) in food processing. Heavy metals that may pose a health risk include arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead. The levels of most metals detected in this study were below established guidelines. Higher than expected arsenic levels were found in several rice products. Health Canada provided a health risk assessment to CFIA indicating that the arsenic levels detected did not pose a health risk to Canadian children (including sensitive populations).

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