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Canada’s CFIA & U.S.A’s FDA Have Signed a Memorandum of Understanding

From: Food in Canada

College Park, Md. – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have agreed to collaborate.

The two agencies announced in a press release that they “have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will facilitate the sharing of food safety information and data, and enable collaborative research projects.”

For a look at the MOU, click here.

Paul Mayers, vice-president of the Science Branch of the CFIA, says in the statement that the two countries already share a strong tie, which “allows us to work together to find innovative and cooperative ways to share information and data in respect to food safety. This collaborative approach to information sharing builds on our individual strengths while expanding our combined knowledge.”

The purpose of the MOU, which was signed at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition campus, is to help both countries collaborate on food safety science.

The MOU is expected to give scientists on both sides of the border access to greater food safety information and data, which will bolster innovation and advance research.

Food Performance: How does Western Canada measure up?

From: Food in Canada

Food-borne illness outbreaks and food recalls tend to grab media headlines and consumers’ attention. Many Albertans will be familiar with the XL Foods meat recall, for instance. Overall, there are more than four million cases of food-borne illness per year in Canada. It leaves Canadians to question just how safe is our food. Canadians are also questioning the cost, health and availability of our food.

How well do Western provinces perform? In The Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 provincial food performance report card, Western provinces performed relatively well to their provincial peers. Indeed, Saskatchewan is head of the class among all provinces. The province excels with “A” grades in four of five categories: food safety, industry prosperity, household food security, and environmental sustainability. Its only “B” grade is awarded on the healthy food and diets category. B.C. is also among the top performers, Alberta received an “A” grade for household food security while Manitoba’s best grade was an “A” for food safety.

In 2015, the Conference Board produced an international food performance comparison of Canada’s food system to assess how the food system meets the needs of the population. The report card measures Canada’s performance against 16 OECD countries across the same five elements of the Canadian Food Strategy: industry prosperity, healthy foods and diets, food safety, food security and environmental sustainability. While Canada (along with Ireland) received the top grades in food safety, there is need for improvement, particularly in reporting on chemical risks in food consumption, conducting more frequent nutrition and dietary studies, food traceability and radiation standards in food.

Compared to most of our peers, Canadians generally choose healthy foods, as we consume lower-than-average intake levels of salt and saturated fats and have a diverse diet. However, Canadians’ health is somewhat compromised by higher levels of diabetes and obesity. Moreover, many Canadians bring home more food than they need generating relatively high levels of food waste and are comparable with other countries in terms of their knowledge and literacy about food.

When measured by affordability and price volatility, overall food availability on a national level is not at issue. However, there are localized problems of food access and prices, and at-risk populations (including indigenous people and single-parent households) continue to exist. Canada does not perform as well in other areas. For example, Canada has among the highest rates of both food waste and food losses in the world, and ranks behind all other countries for rates of greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions.

Canada’s industrial strengths in the food sector are its resource endowments, capital available to farms, crop production, and economic viability. However, the Canadian industry falls short of other countries in measures such as food innovation, livestock production, and representation among leading global food companies.The Conference Board of Canada’s 6th Annual Canadian Food & Drink Summit, taking place this December in Calgary, will explore Western Canada’s food performance. Topics of discussion will also include the Barton Report and the recommendations from the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth where agriculture was identified as having strong potential for substantial growth and export improvement. The Summit will also debate the Government of Canada’s National Food Policy and more.

The Summit will feature engaging sessions and an exciting lineup of leading food experts and experienced practitioners who will share best practices and insights with you on how to engage stakeholders and Canadians to take action, including on trade, inspiring food innovation stories from Alberta, healthier beverages, agri-food outlook, reducing food waste, the labour gap in agriculture, affordable diets, organic retail experience, the future of the grocery business, growing culinary experiences, beef and crop sustainability, and more.The goal is to advance Canada’s food performance. Food affects our lives, health, jobs, environment, and economy. Ensuring that our food is of high quality, affordable, healthy and safe to eat matters to every one of us. We hope you will attend the Summit and look forward to seeing you in Calgary on December 4-6, 2017.

Written by: Jean-Charles Le Vallée, PhD,  associate director Food Horizons Canada, The Conference Board of Canada.

Federal Government Invests in Canadian Livestock Health

From: Food in Canada

Guelph, Ont. – Canada’s federal government is supporting livestock health with an investment of $1.31 million.

In a statement, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) says the investment was made to the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC) “to help ensure the safe transportation of livestock, develop emergency management tools for the livestock industry and improve animal care assessments.”

Jennifer MacTavish, the chair of the CAHC, says in the statement that the organization appreciates the support. She adds that the funding will help “develop Canada’s Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals and affiliated animal care assurance programs.”

The CAHC is a non-profit organization serving Canada’s farmed animal industry. The organization is a partnership of cross-sectorial organizations, all recognizing a shared responsibility for an effective animal health system.

The investment will be divided between four projects, as noted in the statement, including:

  • Up to $223,929 to develop a new livestock transport on-line certification program that will simplify, standardize and provide an opportunity for truckers, shippers and receivers to more easily access the training necessary to improve handling practices.
  • Up to $160,713 to update the Transportation Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals during transport.
  • Up to $813,200 to develop an emergency management plan for the Canadian livestock industry to help mitigate, to respond to, and to recover from major hazard emergencies.
  • Up to $112,180 to revise the Chicken Farmers of Canada’s animal care assessment program to meet the new Code of Practice for hatching eggs, breeders, chickens and turkeys. The project will strengthen the poultry industry’s capacity to respond to ever increasing demand by markets to demonstrate effective animal care standards.

Canadian Researchers Discover Genetic Clue to Peanut Allergy

From: Food in Canada

Hamilton, Ont. – Canadian researchers, says the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen), have pinpointed a new gene associated with peanut allergy. In a press release (“New genetic clue to peanut allergy,” on Oct. 10, 2017), AllerGen says the discovery offers “further evidence that genes play a role in the development of food allergies and opening the door to future research, improved diagnostics and new treatment options.”

AllerGen is a national research network funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada through the Network of Centres of Excellence program. In the statement, AllerGen explains that “the gene, called c11orf30/EMSY (EMSY), is already known to play a role in other allergy-related conditions, such as eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. This study is the first to associate the EMSY locus with food allergy, and these findings suggest that the gene plays an important role in the development of not just food allergy but also general allergic predisposition.”

The AllerGen researchers included Dr. Denise Daley, an associate professor at the University of B.C., Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver; and Dr. Ann Clarke, a professor at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine in Calgary, and adjunct professor at McGill University in Montreal. In the statement, Daley says that “the discovery of this genetic link gives us a fuller picture of the causes of food allergies and this could eventually help doctors identify children at risk.”

AllerGen says that an allergy to peanuts develops early in life “and is rarely outgrown.” Roughly one per cent of Canadian adults and between two and three per cent of Canadian children are affected. Symptoms can be severe to life-threatening. The co-first authors of the study included Dr. Yuka Asai, an AllerGen investigator and assistant professor at Queen’s University, and AllerGen trainee Dr. Aida Eslami, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of B.C.

In the statement, Eslami says the results of the study “suggest that EMSY could be a useful target for predicting and managing food allergy treatments in the future.”

Sanitation:How to Lower Cost, Reduce Risk & Improve Quality

From: BLOCKtalk Magazine

We all know how to get our production facilities clean. What some of us don’t know is how to do it effectively, efficiently, safely and at a responsible cost. The chemicals we use to clean and sanitize food and beverage plants can be dangerous. At full strength, most chemicals can cause severe burns, eye irritation, and lung irritation and are considered dangerous goods. Tri-Mach Group’s Ever-Kleen brand represents the very best in sanitary equipment design for food and beverage plants. The Ever Kleen design is built to be food-safe, ergonomically sound and simple to disassemble and clean. Ever-Kleen conveyors are a state-of-the art solution for moving products along your processing or packaging line. 

Click here to learn more about food safety topics including: (1) efficiency, (2) effectivity, (3) safety, and (4) cost for sanitation systems. 

IFPT/Conestoga Offers a New Program Targeted to Food Manufacturing Leaders

From: BLOCKtalk Magazine 

In the fall of 2016, Conestoga College, through the Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT), launched a new graduate certificate program called, “Operations Leadership in Food Manufacturing”. This one-year, full-time program at Conestoga College is designed for students who want to be prepared for an advanced supervisory career in the food manufacturing industry.

Tri-Mach Group, in partnership with Conestoga, built and installed three full processing lines for the IFPT facility in 2012. These processing lines included: a Vegetable line, a Baking line, and a Liquid Processing line. Tri-Mach Group is happy to hear that the IFPT facility is becoming a success in training graduate students in: quality, food safety, maintenance, operations, procurement, and planning.

Click here to find out the best practices and tools that students are learning from this new and innovative program at Conestoga College.

Consumers warming to irradiated meat

From the Winnipeg Free Press

Ask anyone on the street whether they want to eat safe food, and undoubtedly the answer would be yes. Experiencing a food-borne illness is not only unpleasant, it can be deadly.

But technologies such as irradiation that can make food safer have historically been a tough sell. A public backlash caused Health Canada to nix its plan in 2002 to allow ground fresh and frozen beef to be irradiated. People simply didn’t like the idea.

Treating food products with ionizing radiation can reduce the presence of mould, E coli, salmonella, campylobacter and parasites without reducing nutrition or food quality. International authorities such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization agree it is safe.

Although the technology has been approved for use in Canada since 2002 on potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, whole and ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations, it is currently mostly just used on spices — if at all. But independent inquiries into the 2008 listeriosis contamination of processed meats sold by Maple Leaf, and the 2012 E. coli crisis affecting XL Beef, recommended Canada fast-track new technologies that contribute to food safety.

A survey of consumer perceptions in 2014 suggests public sentiments range from comfortably oblivious to vaguely supportive.

“Although the vast majority of respondents (72 per cent) had not heard of food irradiation, overall perceptions of food irradiation were slightly more positive (30 per cent) than negative (21 per cent) when respondents were informed that irradiation is a food-safety measure that reduces levels of bacteria that cause food poisoning and food spoilage.”

As well, survey respondents were adamant (83 per cent) irradiated food should be labelled. That’s considered a “positive shift” in public opinion.

Read Tri-Mach’s newsletter article about irradiation here.
Read the full article here.

Fewer meat inspectors could lead to more food-borne illnesses: union

From CTV News

The union representing Canada’s meat inspectors says slaughter facilities in Manitoba are severely understaffed and public safety is at risk.

Bob Kingston, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s agriculture union, says slaughterhouses in the province typically operate with one-third fewer inspectors than required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

That will be exacerbated by the federal government’s decision to cut $35 million from the agency’s budget, which will mean 273 fewer inspectors across Canada by 2018, he says.

“Canadians do not trust the food industry to police its own safety practices, yet the government is relying more heavily on food-production companies to self-police,” Kingston said Thursday at a Winnipeg news conference, one of several the union has held across the country recently.

“Without action to address the inspection shortage, it is just a matter of time before the next major food-borne illness outbreak occurs.”

Kingston said the current shortage of federal meat inspectors is so acute, that Manitoba’s plants are borrowing inspectors from other federally licensed facilities to fill in the gaps.

Read the full article here.

CFIA suspends Costco Canada’s fish import licence

From CTV News

Canada’s food safety watchdog has suspended Costco Canada’s fish import licence. The CFIA says the retail giant is not reliably following food safety controls on a consistent basis. The agency says Costco is in violation of federal fish inspection regulations and the suspension of its licence went into effect on Feb. 26.

It says there is no product recall associated with the licence suspension.

Costco said its licence was suspended for not following three administrative issues in the last two years. Twice the store failed to properly notify the CFIA about a load of canned tuna being imported. On another occasion canned tuna was transported directly to Costco’s depot for distribution rather than to a warehouse for CFIA inspection.

The CFIA says Costco can’t import fish products into Canada until it takes corrective action and the agency is satisfied that the chain can effectively manage food safety risks. Costco Canada said the import licence was used to import a limited number of loads of canned tuna products. The company said the suspension does not affect any other fish sold in Costco Canada warehouses.

“As part of its corrective action plan, Costco is currently updating and strengthening its standard operating procedures to ensure full compliance with CFIA’s fish inspection regulations and reinstatement of its fish import licence,” the company said in an email Monday. “This issue did not present any risk to Costco’s members nor was there any recall associated with this licence suspension.”

Read the full article here.

CFIA reviewing reportable diseases

From The Western Producer

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reassessing the list of animal diseases that it deems reportable, immediately notifiable, and annually notifiable.

Dr. Penny Greenwood, national manager of domestic disease control for the CFIA, said the current list is due for an update.

“A lot of the things that we used to put the specific diseases on the reportable list have come and gone. There’s no objective criteria that we have to say, ‘oh yes, this disease meets these criteria, therefore it should be a reportable disease,’ or ‘no, it doesn’t meet these criteria and therefore it shouldn’t be a reportable disease.’ So that’s a big issue.”

Lack of specific criteria could potentially delay federal response in the face of serious zoonotic diseases, which are those that can also affect people.

Animal diseases on the CFIA’s reportable list are those deemed important to either animal or human health or to the Canadian economy. Anyone suspecting an animal to have one of the 31 diseases on the list must report it immediately to a CFIA veterinarian.

Ten of the 31 diseases on that list have never been found in Canada, but it does contain such things as BSE, brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, equine infectious anemia and scrapie.

Read the full article here.