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National Microbiological Monitoring Program 2020-2021


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) develops and delivers programs and services designed to protect Canadians from preventable food safety hazards. The CFIA works to ensure that food safety emergencies are effectively managed, that the public is aware of and contributes to food safety, and that consumers and the marketplace are protected from unfair practices. Canada's food safety requirements apply equally to the domestic and imported food sectors.

The National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) is a food surveillance program managed by the CFIA to verify industry compliance with microbial standards, facilitate access of Canadian food products to international markets, provide information on the effectiveness of food safety control measures and interventions, and maintain consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. Under the NMMP, a broad range of imported and domestic food products are sampled by CFIA inspectors. These food products are frequently sampled at federal licence holding establishments (i.e., those that produce food products that are exported or traded inter-provincially), which are inspected by CFIA inspectors, but samples may also be collected at other establishment types, such as warehouses, distribution centres, and wholesalers.

Food products of the following commodities were tested under the NMMP in the 2020/21 sampling year (April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021): red meat and poultry products, egg products, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruit and vegetable products and fish and seafood. Food-hazard combinations, i.e. specific microorganisms in specific foods that are recognized to occur and whose presence indicates a food safety concern, deemed to pose the greatest potential health risks, recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, emerging food-hazard combinations and historical levels of compliance are taken into consideration when selecting foods for testing under NMMP monitoring sampling plans. Under the NMMP, environmental sampling was also performed at federal licence holding establishments to verify the producer's ability to control the presence of pathogens within the processing environment and confirm that food products are produced under sanitary conditions.

All product and environmental samples collected under the NMMP were tested at CFIA laboratories to verify industry compliance with food microbiological safety and quality standards. All samples were subject to follow-up actions by both industry and the CFIA. Such follow-up actions could include follow-up inspections, additional sampling, product disposal, corrective action requests, food safety investigations, product recalls, etc.

In the 2020/21 sampling year, 8,081 tests were performed on 3,678 domestic and imported food products collected from under the NMMP to verify compliance with food safety standards. Specifically, 6,205  tests were performed on 3,052 domestic products and 1,876 tests were performed on 626 imported products. Results indicated that domestic products were 98.9 % satisfactory whereas imported products were 98.4 % satisfactory. Overall, a 98.8 % satisfactory rate was observed for combined domestic and imported products. In addition, there were 1,203 tests performed on 1,101 environmental samples, which were assessed as 98.7 % satisfactory.

The results of the 2020/21 NMMP sampling activities indicated that the vast majority of food products available in Canada during the 2020/21 sampling year (April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021) were compliant with food safety standards. The few non-compliant samples that were detected resulted in follow-up actions by the CFIA and industry. These actions allowed the CFIA to continue to safeguard Canada's food system and the health and well-being of Canadians.

On March 23, 2020, the CFIA activated its business continuity plan in order to prioritize critically important services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary suspension of low-risk activities, allowed the CFIA to continue to safeguard the health and safety of its staff while refocusing efforts in areas of higher risk and towards activities that are critical to the safety of food, as well as animal and plant health. In early June of 2020, the CFIA gradually resumed some inspection services that were temporarily suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resumption of activities was guided by a risk-based approach and took into consideration the provincial and national public health guidance that were in effect. As such, this prioritization and resumption of activities may have led to the adjustment of the overall number of samples taken for some NMMP plans during the 2020/21 sampling year. While the CFIA's business continuity plan was in place and during the gradual resumption of activities, industry continued to comply with requirements pertaining to food and remained responsible for the safety and quality of the food it produced, imports and exports (CFIA, 2020a; CFIA, 2020b).

Food safety is a collective responsibility of government, industry and consumers. All food producers/importers are responsible under Canadian law for the safety of the food they produce and distribute. In 2020/21, under the NMMP, the CFIA tested food and environmental samples to verify that they met their obligations. Follow-up actions taken by both industry and the CFIA acted to improve Canadian manufacturing processes and identify imported products that did not meet Canadian standards.

Detailed test results are available on the Open Government Portal.

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