National Microbiological Monitoring Program 2013-2014 Annual Report

Executive Summary

The Government of Canada verifies that food produced and/or sold in Canada is safe and meets federal food safety standards. This provides Canadians with confidence in the foods they buy. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) monitors and regulates food products that are produced domestically and moved inter-provincially, or are imported. Within Canada, all food products must comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which set out criteria for safe food and clearly prescribe restrictions on the production, importation, sale, composition and content of food.

The National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) is one of many tools utilized by the CFIA to meet its objectives. Its monitoring activities focus on specific foods and their related hazards that are most likely to impair the health and safety of Canadians, and are designed to sample and test a broad range of imported and domestic commodities for microbial hazards of concern. The testing carried out under the NMMP covers red meat and poultry products, shell eggs and egg products, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetable products, as well as environmental testing within the manufacturing environments.

It is generally accepted that, when foods are prepared by the consumers, proper precautions are taken in the home to destroy any bacteria that may be present. However, there are ready-to-eat foods that are not further processed by the consumer as well as raw foods that, if not properly cooked, can lead to illness. Most testing under the NMMP is done on these types of foods as the risk of foodborne illness from them is anticipated to be greater.

The results of the 2013/14 NMMP sampling activities demonstrate that the majority of food products available in the Canadian marketplace were safe and compliant with national standards.

During the 2013/14 fiscal year, the overall compliance rate for combined domestic and imported products was 99.3% where domestic products were 99.6% compliant and imported products were 98.4% compliant. These compliance rates were calculated from 13801 tests performed on 5510 domestic and imported products. Specifically, 8982 tests were performed on 3991 domestic products and 4819 tests were performed on 1519 imported products.

Environmental sampling is performed in domestic establishments to verify the operator systems' ability to control the presence of pathogens within the processing environment. The sampling helps the food producer and the CFIA to identify microbial hazards in the processing environment allowing the food producer to intervene prior to possible product contamination. The results of sampling are also used to verify that food products are produced under sanitary conditions. The food production environment includes not only the surfaces that come into direct contact with the food, such as tools and water that is recirculated during processing but also areas of the production environment that do not come in direct contact with the food like drains and air ducts. Contaminants in these non-food contact areas may be carried to food contact surfaces by various vectors such as humans, dust and water droplets. Thus, in addition to testing food products, wash water samples and surface swabs are taken within the food production environment to monitor the use of sanitary practices. During 2013/14, there were 1986 tests performed on 1895 environmental samples which were assessed as 97.6% compliant.

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