Children's Food Project – Annual report – 2017
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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) uses a number of different monitoring programs for chemical residues and contaminants in food to ensure that the food supply is safe and compliant with Canadian standards. The Children's Food Project (CFP) complements these activities by specifically collecting information on chemical residues and contaminants in manufactured foods frequently consumed by, and targeted to, infants and children. Because of their smaller body weight, their development and growth, and their consumption patterns this group may be at higher risk from exposure to these chemicals.
The main objective of the 2017 CFP was to collect data and assess the compliance of infant foods to Canadian standards for residues of pesticides and metals. Previous years have analyzed pesticides, metals, veterinary drug residues, aflatoxins and environmental contaminants.
In the 2017 CFP, a total of 534 samples of infant and toddler foods were purchased in the Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec areas between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018. These samples included infant cereal, fruit and vegetable purees, infant and toddler grain-based snacks and juices. All samples were analyzed for pesticide residues and only juice samples were tested for metals.
The overall compliance rate of the infant and toddler food samples tested for pesticides and metals was 99.8%. 373 out of a total of 534 samples tested did not contain any detectable pesticide residues. 1 sample was not compliant with Canadian regulations, but was not considered a safety risk by Health Canada (HC).
Approximately 86.3% of the 51 samples of juice did not contain detectable levels of metals/elements of concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury). The levels of these elements found in the remaining samples had a 100% compliance rate.
Data obtained from surveillance programs like the CFP are useful in the assessment of the dietary exposure of Canadian children to pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, metals/elements and aflatoxin M1 in infant foods. All data was reviewed by HC and no health risk was identified to Canadian infants and toddlers.
What is the children's food project
The CFP began in 2003 to look at levels of pesticide residues and metals/elements, in foods for infants and children. Because of their smaller body weight, their development and growth, and their consumption patterns, this group may be at higher risk from exposure to these chemicals.
The CFIA uses a number of different monitoring programs to ensure that the food supply is safe and compliant with Canadian standards. The CFP complements these activities by specifically collecting information on domestically produced and imported manufactured foods frequently consumed by and targeting children (for example, infant formula, cereal-based products, fruit juices and beverages). Together, the data from these programs help health authorities assess potential exposure to chemical residues and contaminants in a number of foods consumed by Canadian children.
The main objective of the 2017 CFP was to collect data and assess the compliance of infant foods to Canadian standards for residues of pesticides and metals.
What did we sample
In total, 534 domestic and imported infant foods were sampled from retail stores located in Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018. Of the 534 samples, 304 were labelled as organic. Both imported and domestically-produced foods were sampled with 6 products manufactured in Canada, 106 imported from other countries and 31 products from an unknown country of origin.
|Infant food||Number of domestic samples||Number of import samples||Number of samples from unspecified origin Table Note a||Total number of samples|
|Fruit and vegetable purees||52||140||21||213|
|Grain-based snacks (for example, cookies, puffs, bars)||21||94||32||147|
|Juice – toddler/infant||28||15||8||51|
Due to the limited number of samples and products analyzed, care must be taken when interpreting these results. Regional differences, impact of product shelf-life, storage conditions, or cost of the commodity on the open market were not examined in this survey. Samples were tested as sold, which means the product was tested as is and not prepared according to package instructions.
How were samples analyzed and assessed
Analytical testing for the various types of analytes was performed by ISO/IEC 17025 accredited food testing laboratories under contract with the Government of Canada.
The samples were tested for a range of pesticide residues which are commonly used in farming to control insects, fungus, and weeds. A summary of the pesticide residues analyzed can be found in Appendix A.
Many metals or elements are present in food due to their natural presence in the environment, but they could also be present due to the use of pesticides, agricultural chemicals, environmental contamination or processing. Juice samples were tested for a range of metals and elements. The focus of this report will be on four elements of primary concern to human health, which are arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.
Assessment of results
All results from samples tested in the project were evaluated against Canadian standards established by HC. For pesticides, the maximum residue limit (MRL) is the maximum amount of residues that is expected to remain in or on food products when a pesticide is used according to product label directions. For elements, the maximum level (ML) is the maximum level of a contaminant that could safely remain in food products.
Canadian pesticide MRLs are listed in the maximum residue limit databaseFootnote 1 published on the HC website. In the absence of an MRL, pesticide residues must comply with the general MRL of 0.1 ppm as stated in section B.15.002 (1) of the Food and Drug Regulations.
Maximum levels for contaminants in food are found in the list of contaminants and other adulterating substances in foods. The maximum level for lead in fruit juices is 0.05 ppm and for arsenic, it's 0.1 ppm. Non-compliant results were assessed by HC. Results from this survey were assessed by HC and were not considered to be of concern to children or infants.
What were the results
All 534 samples taken as part of the survey were tested for pesticides. No detectable levels of pesticide residues were found in 69.9% of the infant foods tested (373 samples). The results from the remaining 161 samples were 99.8% compliant with Canadian regulations. Only 1 sample (a fruit and vegetable puree) was determined to be unsatisfactory for glyphosate. The glyphosate result was reviewed by HC and determined to be safe for children and infants.
In this study, 304 of the 534 samples were labelled as "organic". There were no pesticide residues detected in 78.6% (239 samples) of organic products tested. 64 of the 65 remaining samples with detected levels of pesticide were below Canadian MRLs. All non-compliant organic residue results were sent to the Organics office for review.
A total of 51 juice samples were tested for metals/elements and 86.3% did not have detected levels for arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Juices were tested because Canadian regulations exist for arsenic and lead. A summary of metal/element results can be found in Appendix B. All metal/element results were sent to HC's Bureau of Chemical Safety for review and samples were considered safe for children and infants.
Arsenic is an element that naturally occurs in the earth's crust and can be found in 2 chemical forms: organic (contains carbon atoms) and inorganic. In general, inorganic arsenic is more toxic to humans than organic arsenic. Long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is known to contribute to the risk of human cancer and can affect the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, liver, lungs and skinFootnote 2. For most Canadians, the primary source of exposure to arsenic is food, followed by drinking water, soil andairFootnote 3.
A total of 11.8% of juice samples had detected levels of total arsenic (includes organic and inorganic forms). All levels were below the maximum level of 0.1 ppm.
There are no Canadian MLs for cadmium levels in food and are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Cadmium can be present in water and soil through the use of phosphate fertilizers or sewage sludge. Food grown in cadmium containing soils is the primary source of cadmium exposure in the general populationFootnote 4. Kidneys and bones are affected by cadmium toxicityFootnote 4.
There were no detected levels of cadmium in any of the juice samples.
Lead exposure may occur from a number of environmental and food sources. Chronic exposure to low levels of lead can be harmful to human health. Lead occurs naturally in the environment and has many industrial uses, such as in mining, smelting and battery manufacturingFootnote 5 The greatest sources of a child's environmental exposure to lead are oral exposure from food and water along with ingestion of house dust and soil contaminated with leadFootnote 5.
2 samples of juice (3.9%) had low levels of lead. All levels were below the maximum level of 0.05 ppm.
Mercury is released naturally from rocks, soils and volcanoes. Industrial activities have also increased the amount of mercury in the environmentFootnote 6 Mercury contamination is a concern because it is toxic, persists in the environment, and can bio-accumulate in the food chain. The health effects of mercury depend on its chemical form (elemental, inorganic, organic), the route and level of exposure. Methyl mercury is the more toxic organic form and is easily absorbed and can cross the blood-brain barrier. Children and the developing fetus are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of methyl mercury.
There were no detected levels of mercury in any of the juice samples.
The results of the CFP were shared with HC and the Organics office and they determined that none of the samples tested posed a health risk to Canadian infants. There were no product actions or recalls resulting from this sampling and testing on the basis of health risk. The infant foods tested in this survey, whether domestically produced or imported, are safe for consumption.
CFIA is committed to ensuring a safe food supply for all Canadians, including the vulnerable populations such as infants and young children. In the coming year, pesticide residues, toxic metals/elements (arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead), veterinary drug residues and aflatoxin M1 will be examined in pureed infant food containing meat, ready-to-eat meals, pasta, and dairy and soy-based infant formula samples.
Appendix A: List of pesticides
- Aldicarb sulfone
- Aldicarb sulfoxide
- Butocarboxim sulfoxide
- Chlorfenvinphos (e+z)
- Chlorthal-dimethyl (Dacthal)
- Cyfluthrin (I,II,III,IV)
- Deltamethrin / Tralomethrin (Total)
- Demeton-s Methyl (total)
- Demeton-s-methyl sulfone
- Demeton-s-methyl sulfoxide
- Diazinon o analogue
- Disulfoton sulfone
- Emamectin (Total)
- Endosulfan sulfate
- Ethiofencarb sulfone
- Ethiofencarb sulfoxide
- Fenamiphos sulfone
- Fenamiphos sulfoxide
- Fenchlorphos (Ronnel)
- Fenvalerate & Esfenvalerate
- Fipronil sulfone
- Heptachlor epoxide endo
- Heptachlor epoxide exo
- Lindane (gamma-BHC)
- Methiocarb sulfone
- Methiocarb Sulfoxide
- Methyl Pentachlorophenyl sulphide
- Methyl trithion
- Mevinphos (Total)
- Norflurazon desmethyl
- o,p'-DDD (o,p'-TDE)
- Pesticide Screen
- Phenoxy Herbicides Screen
- p,p'-DDD (p,p'-TDE)
- Permethrin (Total)
- Phorate sulfone
- Phorate sulfoxide
- Piperonyl butoxide
- Spinosyn A+D
- Thiofanox sulfone
- Thiofanox sulfoxide
- Triphenyl phosphate
- Tris (1,3-Dichloroisopropyl) Phosphate
- Tris(2-butoxyethyl) Phosphate
- Tris(2-chloroethyl) Phosphate
- Tris(chloropropyl) Phosphate
Appendix B: Metals results found in infant foods and formula
|Metal analyte||Product type||Total number of samples||Total number negative||Total number positive||Minimum (ppm)||Maximum (ppm)||Mean (ppm) Table Note b origin|
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