Overview - National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts a national Chemical Residue Sampling Program to monitor chemical residue levels on domestic and imported fresh fruits and vegetables. The objective of the program is to safeguard Canada's domestic and imported produce by enforcing the Canada Agricultural Products Act and the Food and Drugs Act through the CFIA's inspection, sampling, testing and compliance activities.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency at Health Canada registers the use of agricultural chemicals and establishes acceptable residue levels in food by setting maximum residue limits (MRL). Canadian MRLs apply to residues on both domestic and imported fruits and vegetables. The CFIA analyzes approximately 10,000 samples every year for agricultural chemical residue, to verify that imported and domestic fruits and vegetables are safe and wholesome.
The Three Phases of Agricultural Chemical Residue Sampling
The Agricultural Chemical Residue Sampling Program conducted by the CFIA is divided into three phases: monitoring, directed and compliance.
The monitoring phase is designed to gather data and provide information on the occurrence of agricultural chemical residues in a predefined sampling population of fresh fruits and vegetables. The information from monitoring is obtained through random samples of produce that appear normal. This phase is conducted to detect potential violations. If the samples are found to be in violation of established MRLs, the product is put under the directed phase.
The directed phase is conducted to confirm presumptive positive results and identify suspected problems. This phase targets a specific commodity to collect and analyze samples from five lots. If all five (5) samples are found to be in compliance with Canadian maximum regulatory limits, the product is returned to the monitoring list. However, if any one of the five samples are found to be in violation with the MRL, that product is placed under compliance status.
The compliance phase is implemented to remove contaminated product from the marketplace. Regulatory action is always directed at a specific source, such as the grower or shipper. The specific commodity is removed from the marketplace until at least five (5) lots are tested at a recognized laboratory at the expense of the grower or shipper. If all five (5) samples are found to be in compliance with Canadian maximum regulatory limits, the compliance status will be removed and the product will be placed under the monitoring phase.
Targets for Inspection, Sampling and Testing
Produce shipments are considered adulterated or contaminated if they contain an agricultural chemical in a concentration greater than the MRL for that particular chemical and crop. Samples for the residue program are sent to accredited labs and are analyzed for more than 260 chemicals. This is called multi-residue analysis and is used for the detection of a wide scope of chemical compounds. If needed, additional tests can be used with the specific analytical protocol to test for a specific chemical. Residue levels found in excess of the established limits are confirmed by additional techniques such as mass spectrometry.
The CFIA tests for chemicals from an extensive list of potential contaminants, including pesticides and toxic metals. From this list the CFIA attempts to concentrate its inspection, sampling and testing resources on the chemicals of greatest public health concern.
Chemical contaminants can enter the growing and handling environment for fresh fruits and vegetables from many sources. Some sources are easily identified. For example, pre-harvest and post-harvest contamination can include misuse of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, cleaning and coating materials. Other contamination can come from diffuse sources such as runoffs from waste disposal sites, sewage treatment plants and industrial discharge of metals.
Reference List for Established MRLs
Canadian MRLs for pesticides are listed under the Pest Control Products Act as mentioned in Division B.15.002. of the Food and Drug Regulation and can be viewed on the Health Canada Web site.
For registered pesticides having no MRL's, residues are covered under the default of 0.1 ppm.
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