FoodNet Canada not part of surveillance system, but found E. coli-tainted beef that was recalled days after positive test

The federal system designed to keep Canadian food safe to eat failed in December to prevent ground beef contaminated with E. coli from being offered for sale to consumers.

beef.processingCBC News reports that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s December recall of 31,000 pounds of ground beef followed a positive test of a random sample by a federally-co-ordinated public health surveillance program, CBC News has learned. It was not a result of any inspection work performed by the CFIA, whose job it is to prevent tainted meat from entering the marketplace.

The recall also was not widely publicized until the morning of Dec. 2 — three or four days after the “use by” dates of the packaged meat had passed.

That timeline suggests the entire food safety system managed by CFIA failed to either detect E. coli-tainted meat in a federally regulated processing facility or recall the problem batch until after any of the fresh meat had likely been consumed or thrown out.

The details of the recall prompted an angry reaction from NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen.

“That’s not a safety inspection system, that’s actually just a failure,” he said. “If by the time they actually make a recall,  it’s days after the best before date, there’s nothing on the shelf to recall.  

“It’s either been bought, in people’s freezers, been consumed, or the retailer themselves removed it — not because they knew it was unsafe but because the best before date expired and they took it off the shelf themselves.”

The meat was shipped by Cargill Meat Solutions from its Calgary processing plant to Walmart stores across the four Western provinces on Nov. 19 and 20.

That facility is federally inspected, but the systems in place there apparently did not detect any E. coli.

dude.its.beefIn a statement, Cargill said it maintained a “robust food safety program.”

“We are currently reviewing our processing and testing procedures as part of our investigation to determine if any changes are appropriate,” the statement said. 

The CFIA says its investigation is ongoing. It said it was impossible to predict how long that work will take.

“We are taking all necessary steps in order to protect Canadians from the risks posed by E. coli,” the agency offered in a statement.

But those steps appear, in this case, to have not yielded effective results.

Rather, it was the work of FoodNet Canada that revealed some of Cargill’s meat had been contaminated.

The little known organization is a federally-run public health program that performs surveillance for infectious enteric disease caused by bacteria, viruses or other parasitic micro-organism such as E. coli.

It does the work in three so-called “sentinel sites” in Canada, including B.C.’s lower mainland, where it monitors public health, samples water and tests manure from farms where animals are raised for human consumption.

FoodNet also collects random samples of meat and produce from grocery stores, says Dr. Frank Pollari, the program’s manager.

“We’re just trying to see what the end product looks like, what the consumer is getting,” he said. “We randomly select the retailers, and then [staff] go out to those and select the specific package that we get, and they ship it to our labs.”

Recall 3 days after meat tested positive

Pollari says it was one of those samples of Cargill meat from a B.C. Walmart that first tested positive for E. coli.

That early result was sent to the CFIA on Nov. 28. 

That was the first of two consecutive “use by” dates with which the meat had been labelled.

CFIA says it began an investigation immediately. But, the meat was not ordered recalled until after confirmatory test results were known on Dec. 1.

Then the agency asked for a risk assessment to be performed.  The results of that analysis came back late on Dec. 1.

The news release announcing the recall to consumers was dated that same day, but was not sent out by distribution services until the next morning — three full days after the first packages of meat would have begun to pass their best before dates.

In a statement Sunday, CFIA media relations manager Guy Gravelle suggested the recall was the result of a normal process.

steak-groundbeef-istock-300“As a result of the federal system and measures we have in place, the CFIA was able to recall these products based on routine retail sampling,” Gravelle wrote in an e-mail. 

“This food recall was made before any reported illnesses and to date there have been no illnesses.”

But FoodNet, which found the bad meat, is not technically part of the food safety system. 

It is an adjunct — a surveillance program, designed to provide scientific data and public health information to the government and to the food sector.

“Our job is to feed the information back to those who can and do make the difference in putting in interventions,” Pollari said.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose is responsible for the CFIA, and, ultimately, for FoodNet Canada, as well.

In a statement, her office said, “Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world.”

Uh –huh.

Cargill ground beef recalled after E. coli O157 positive in Western Canada

Cargill Meat Solutions (Est. 700) is recalling Your Fresh Market brand ground beef products from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157 contamination.  Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

e.coli.O157.cargill.dec.14The following products have been sold at Walmart stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Recalled products

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef Sirloin

Size: 475g                        

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18363 7

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef         

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18369 9

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Medium Ground Beef 

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18365 1

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 475g                            

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29

UPC: 6 05388 18376 7

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Extra Lean Ground Beef         

Size: 900 g               

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18372 9

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 900 g               

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28

UPC: 6 05388 18378 1

Brand Name: Your Fresh Market

Common Name: Lean Ground Beef       

Size: 1.6 kg             

Code(s) on Product:            Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29

UPC: 6 05388 18379 8

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

This recall was triggered by test results. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with these products.

Separation of church (hockey) and state: Micro results for Canada, 2012-2013

As part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) annual testing of various food products, a report released today shows that more than 99 per cent of a wide variety of food samples tested were compliant with Canadian guidelines and standards for microbial hazards and extraneous materials.

canada.gretzgy.colbertThe CFIA’s National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) tests a wide range of commodities for multiple hazards, including microbial hazards, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella, and extraneous material, such as glass and metal objects. The testing carried out under the NMMP includes domestic and imported red meat and poultry products, shell eggs and egg products, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetable products.

When potential food safety concerns are detected they are assessed to determine the level of risk posed to consumers and the appropriate follow-up action. These actions may include notifying the producer or importer, additional inspections, or further directed sampling. If Health Canada determines that a product poses a health risk to consumers, a product recall is initiated.

The overall finding of this survey suggests that the vast majority of food sold in the Canadian marketplace is produced and handled under good manufacturing practices. However, contamination of foods with disease-causing microorganisms could sporadically occur. Consumers should follow these safety tips when handling, preparing and storing food at Healthy Canadians.

Quick Facts

    • 99.4 per cent of 4,980 samples of domestic and imported food products were compliant with Canadian guidelines and standards.
    • The NMMP also collected wash water samples and surface swabs within various food production environments. These environmental samples are used to verify that food products are produced under sanitary conditions. 99.7 per cent of 1,892 environmental samples were compliant.

Recent research on third-party audits

Ronald Doering, the first president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the only one I can remember, writes in his Food Law column:

ron.doeringUntil recently there has been little serious research on the most significant food safety advance in the last decade, a develop­ment that has been entirely outside the realm of public law — the extraordinary growth of third-party supplier audits. There are now over 500 food safety audit firms, many of which have global operations.

The Food Safety Service Providers, an industry association representing nine leading private food safety audit firms, asserts that its members alone conduct more than 200,000 audits and inspections in more than 100 countries each year. It has been estimated that in the U.S. the scale of private food law auditing activity is now 10 times larger than that of the federal government, more than all federal and state efforts combined. Two recently published academic studies provide inter­esting insights into several aspects of this important new area of food law.

Audits and Inspections Are Never Enough: A Critique to Enhance Food Safety (Food Control, vol. 30, issue 2) by Douglas Powell et al. identifies the many limitations of third-party audits and doc­uments several cases of major foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food proces­sors that have passed third-party audits. Audits need to be supplemented by other measures such as microbial testing, and companies must have in-house capacity to meaningfully assess the audit results. Third-party audits are part of “a shift in food safety governance away from government regulation and inspection towards the development of private food safety standards.” This study represents a cogent caution to the audit industry that they must improve their systems, and a warning to the food industry that audits are never enough.

doug.ron.2.jan.13In the latest Wisconsin Law Review American law professors Timothy D. Lytton and Lesley K. McAllister (Oversight in Private Food Safety Auditing: Addressing Auditor Conflict of Interest, 2014) provide the first comprehensive analysis of one of the most serious problems with private food safety auditing — auditor conflict of interest. Auditors are paid by the company being audited. Suppliers have an interest in finding the cheapest and least intrusive audit that will provide a certificate, and auditors have a financial incentive to reduce the cost and rigour of audits to get business in a very competitive environment. This study analyzes several oversight mechanisms that have been developed to mitigate the conflict problem, but concludes that at this time there are still too few financial incentives to assure more rigorous auditing.

Considering how few inspections are actually carried out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relative to the number of businesses it is responsible for, it is ironic that the U.S. has been so reluctant to embrace more fully the advantages that third-party audits represent. Perhaps this is because President Obama is so beholden to consumer activist groups that do not trust the in­dustry, believe that only FDA inspectors can stop big bad food companies from poisoning consumers, and who refuse to recognize that it is private audits that are increasingly the drivers of enhanced food safety. Obama has declared that it is the state that has the primary responsibility for food safety, and the former FDA com­missioner dismissed audit schemes as being merely “a business strategy, not a public health strategy.”

In Canada we have always recognized that while it is a shared effort, practically and legally it is food producers that have the primary responsibility for food safety. Industry recognized some years ago that they couldn’t meet this responsibility adequately just by complying with gov­ernment regulations — that they could protect their brand from recalls, minimize foodborne illness law suits, source ingredi­ents widely and trade internationally only if, among other things, they insisted on warranty agreements from suppliers and that these were backed up by independent third-party audits. There are many legal and other problems with these relatively new instruments at this still early stage in their development, but they’ve come a long way in the last 10 years.

Finding ways to better integrate public law-based food safety regulations with private law-based certification systems may prove to be one of our more inter­esting challenges in the decade ahead.

Fine food: Salmon recalled because of potential botulism in Canada

Farquhar’s Orchards Fine Foods is recalling Farquhar’s Orchards Fine Foods brand salmon products from the marketplace because they may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

salmon.cfia.botulismThe following products have been sold in Ontario.

Brand Name: Farquhar’s Orchards Fine Foods

Common Name: House Candied Salmon

Size: Variable weight

Code(s) on Product: All PACKED ON dates

UPC: Starts with 0 204109

Reason for Recall: Microbiological – Clostridium botulinum

Brand Name: Farquhar’s Orchards Fine Foods

Common Name: House Smoked Salmon

Size: Variable weight

Code(s) on Product: All PACKED ON dates

UPC: Starts with 0 204108

Reason for Recall: Microbiological – Clostridium botulinum

What You Should Do

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, blurred or double vision, dry mouth, respiratory failure and paralysis. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

Background

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) inspection activities. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Canadian meat inspectors to inspect Canadian meat inspectors

If food safety audits and inspections couldn’t get worse, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is bragging that it is creating Inspection Verification Teams to oversee the performance of Canada’s food safety system.

larry.health.inspectorI thought inspectors were supposed to do that?

Starting this month, six teams of three inspection verification officers will begin conducting targeted verifications at federally registered food establishments such as slaughter and meat production facilities. The verifications will focus on areas critical to the inspection and production of safe food, such as plant sanitation and the effectiveness of a company’s response to food recalls. An additional four teams will be operational by the fall.

As announced in June 2013, the Government of Canada has committed $16 million over three years to establish the Inspection Verification Teams. Their activities are over and above regular inspections conducted every day in facilities across Canada. Existing front-line CFIA inspectors will continue to conduct specified daily tasks to verify that food safety requirements are being met while the Inspection Verification Teams have a broader oversight role.

CFIA shuts down new PEI lobster plant

The first new lobster processing plant in 10 years in Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canada) has not had its registration renewed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

lobsterA CIFA spokesperson said Red Cove seafood processing was allowed to resume operations following an earlier suspension on April 14 under ongoing inspection by CFIA. On May 8, CFIA decided not to renew Red Cove’s registration.

“The CFIA has determined that adequate controls for safety were not reliably implemented in the facility on a regular basis, which is in violation of the fish inspection regulations,” the spokesperson said. “Specifically, (Red Cove Seafood Processing) was unable to consistently maintain minimum regulatory standards for construction, equipment sanitation and process controls.”

Selection brand rosemary leaves recalled due to Salmonella in Canada

Rosemary, you’re one of my favorite spices, but I always eat you cooked because of microbiological risk.

Nador Inc. is recalling Selection brand Rosemary Leaves from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

salm.rosemary.may.14Size: 50 g

Code(s) on Product: 14014

UPC: 0 59749 88916 2

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

How to have fewer people barfing from food? Inspections and government are only one tool

It’s an easy story for beleaguered journalists: a belligerent government versus a belligerent union, with both making wild claims about food safety.

Lost in the rhetoric is any concern about the people who eat – pretty much all of us – and the people who barf.

The union representing federal food inspectors says Canada’s food safety system is being pushed beyond its limits.

restaurant.inspectionSome $35-million and 192 inspectors are on the food safety program’s chopping block over the next two years, according to online documents posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The agency has also disbanded a team of inspectors dedicated to protecting consumers from food fraud throughout Metro Vancouver. The Consumer Protection Unit once boasted 11 inspectors, but that number dwindled to four due to attrition.

The federal health ministry referred questions to the CFIA, which responded to the union’s claims with a broad e-mail.

“The statements by the union are false. There have been no cuts to food safety. Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world,” it said.

The agency acknowledged there have been recent changes to how it handles the Vancouver area.

Time to change the discussion and the approach to safe food. Time to lose the religion: audits and inspections are never enough.

• Food safety audits and inspections are a key component of the nation’s food safety system and their use will expand in the future, for both domestic and imported foodstuffs., but recent failures can be emotionally, physically and financially devastating to the victims and the businesses involved;

• many outbreaks involve firms that have had their food production systems verified and received acceptable ratings from food safety auditors or government inspectors;

• while inspectors and auditors play an active role in overseeing compliance, the burden for food safety lies primarily with food producers;

• there are lots of limitations with audits and inspections, just like with restaurants inspections, but with an estimated 48 million sick each year in the U.S., the question should be, how best to improve food safety?

• audit reports are only useful if the purchaser or  food producer reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results;

• there appears to be a disconnect between what auditors provide (a snapshot) and what buyers believe they are doing (a full verification or certification of product and process);

• third-party audits are only one performance indicator and need to be supplemented with microbial testing, second-party audits of suppliers and the in-house capacity to meaningfully assess the results of audits and inspections;

• companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of foodborne illness should also blame themselves;

• assessing food-handling practices of staff through internal observations, externally-led evaluations, and audit and inspection results can provide indicators of a food safety culture; and,

• the use of audits to help create, improve, and maintain a genuine food safety culture holds the most promise in preventing foodborne illness and safeguarding public health.

 

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

21 sick, 1 dead from E. coli O157 linked to Gort’s cheese in Canada last year; source not known

Seven months after their world was shaken, the owners of Gort’s Gouda cheese farm are still working to get their business back on solid ground.

“It’s been a tough haul. We’re working hard at rebounding, it’s looking positive. It’s going to be a long haul, but that’s okay,” said Kathy Wikkerink, who owns the farm with her spouse Gary.

gorts.cheese.O157In February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a report on its food safety investigation at the farm. It was initiated on Sept. 14, 2013 following a cluster of E.coli 0157:H7 illnesses that were believed to be related to consumption of cheese products from Gort’s.

Twenty-one people were eventually reported with E.coli-related illness and recovered, while one woman died.

Pinpointing the contamination couldn’t be done.

“Despite extensive efforts, the CFIA concluded that there was no evidence available to confirm the source of the E. coli O157:H7 contamination,” states the report.

“The CFIA identified areas for improvements at the processing facility and requested Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm to submit a corrective action plan. The company was requested to make enhancements in sanitation practices, equipment design and building maintenance.”

It adds that, “all food safety concerns identified during the investigation have been corrected. Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm corrected other administrative and non-food safety related issues within accepted time frames.”

Kathy says the bulk of the requirements for the business involved paper work, “bigger paper trails.”

Under “root cause analysis,” the report points to raw milk cheese products.

“Overall evidence indicated that there were a number of opportunities for contamination to occur in the earlier stages of the raw milk cheese manufacturing process.

“The potential for contamination during cutting, handling and packaging was also found to be a possible risk factor.”