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Statistics: Food safety investigations

The food safety investigation and recall process is initiated when there is reason to believe that a potentially contaminated food has reached the marketplace.

The Canadian food supply is one of the safest in the world. However, no food safety system can guarantee zero risk. At any point in the production system, food can become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, undeclared allergens or material such as glass or metal fragments.

Food safety investigations are complex and involve several essential steps to determine if a food recall is required and what food to recall. When dealing with potentially unsafe food, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) acts as quickly as possible to collect information and make decisions. Food safety investigations are carried out by a variety of experts at the CFIA, including inspection staff, and will continue until complete and sufficient information is gathered to determine if a risk exists and develop a strategy to mitigate the risk.

There are several triggers that start a food safety investigation, which could lead to a food recall. These include, but are not limited to:

The objectives of a food safety investigation are:

On average, the CFIA conducts approximately 3,300 food safety investigations each year.

Food safety investigations

Food safety investigations from April: April 2015 - March 2020. Description follows.
Description for bar graph – April 2015 – March 2020 table
Food safety investigations from April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2020
Apr 15 – Mar 16 Apr 16 – Mar 17 Apr 17 – Mar 18 Apr 18 – Mar 19 Apr 19 – Mar 20
Total food safety investigations 3202 3135 3593 3278 3222

Food safety investigations by hazard

Food safety investigations by hazard: April 2015 - March 2020. Description follows.
Description for bar graph – April 2015 – March 2020 table
Food safety investigations by hazard from April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2020
Apr 15 – Mar 16 Apr 16 – Mar 17 Apr 17 – Mar 18 Apr 18 – Mar 19 Apr 19 – Mar 20
Allergen 527 493 475 379 323
Chemical 249 209 217 230 275
Extraneous material 1336 1276 1631 1484 1378
Microbiological 942 1011 1111 1047 1093
Other 248 207 228 201 210

Glossary

Allergen:
A food product may contain ingredients such as peanuts, milk or eggs that are not identified or are incorrectly identified on the label and that can cause adverse reactions in people who are allergic to the item.
Chemical:
A food product contains chemical residues such as lead, mercury or pesticides that, at certain levels, can affect human health.
Extraneous material:
A food product contains material from an outside source, such as metal, glass or hair. These are not necessarily a risk to human health.
Microbiological:
A food product is contaminated by micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites, which have the potential to cause illness.
Other:
A food product is of concern due to the presence of a hazard that does not fall within one of the above categories. Examples include non-permitted ingredients, nutrition concerns and potential tampering.
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