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How does the government address food contamination?

Victor Lewin - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes food contamination very seriously. When contaminants are suspected in the food supply, CIFA has a process ready to implement.

There are some common triggers of food safety investigations that can turn into food recalls. They are:

-- Outbreaks of illnesses. Officials with public health agencies are trained to spot patterns and links between specific foods and subsequent illnesses.

-- Results from food tests. The results can come from suspected foods being imported into the country, territory or province government officials, the food industry or CFIA itself.

-- Inspections from CFIA. Agency personnel conduct routine and surprise inspections of the manufacturing and food processing sites. They also can analyse company records when contamination is suspected.

-- Recalls initiated by the companies. Responsible companies that want to prevent damage to their brand will often issue recalls on their own.

-- Recalls in other countries. Chances are if another country has issued a food recall, Canada will follow their lead.

-- Law enforcement. Police agencies might be the first to learn of alleged tampering incidents after conducting their own investigations or gleaning information from social media.

A food safety investigation is multifaceted and complex. Quick decisions by CFIA are necessary to remove suspected tainted foods from the supply chain. Determinations must be made as to:

-- Identify potentially unsafe foods.

-- Discover where it was distributed.

-- Determine the cause of the contamination whenever possible.

The agency has to trace the production and distribution processes backwards to the source during a recall action. This is done by analysing information regarding the production and distribution processes using expiration and buy before dates and product codes.

If your health has been seriously compromised by a tainted food product, or you lost a loved one who consumed a contaminated food item, you may have a cause of action for wrongful death.

Source: Government of Canada, "The Canadian Food Safety System: Food Recalls," accessed July 31, 2015

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