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National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program Annual Report 2010-2012


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for monitoring the food supply for chemical residues and contaminants, and determination of compliance with maximum residue limits (MRLs) and maximum levels established by Health Canada. This report describes the monitoring activities undertaken by the CFIA between October 1, 2010 and March 31, 2012 (hereafter referred to as 2010-2012) as part of the National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP).

The NCRMP has operated annually since 1978. Information obtained through this program enables the CFIA to verify compliance with Canadian MRLs and maximum levels and take appropriate follow-up action. It also allows CFIA to identify trends over time, gauge the effectiveness of policies and programs, and develop strategic plans to minimize potential health risks to Canadians. The NCRMP sampling plans are developed in accordance with internationally accepted Codex Alimentarius principles and guidelines. Samples are analyzed for various chemical residues and contaminants using validated multi-residue and single residue methods by CFIA laboratories and accredited third party laboratories. The results are assessed for compliance with established Canadian maximum levels; follow-up and enforcement action is taken as necessary.

In the context of the 2010-2012 NCRMP, over 190 000 tests for residues of veterinary drugs, agricultural chemicals, metals and contaminants were performed on over 30 000 monitoring samples of domestic and imported dairy, eggs, honey, meat and poultry products, fresh fruit and vegetables, processed products, and maple products. These tests produced over five million results. The results of these analyses are summarized and discussed in this report.

All detected chemical residues and contaminants were assessed to determine if they were compliant with Canadian MRLs and maximum levels. Overall, compliance rates were high for all commodities tested and the results observed were consistent with those seen in previous years. Similar results were observed for domestic and imported products, and there was no clear relationship between compliance rate and country of origin.

Foods of animal origin (dairy, eggs, honey, meat and poultry) were tested for veterinary drug residues, and overall compliance rates (by test) ranged from 98.15 to 100%. The majority of violations observed were for commodity-drug combinations that have not been approved for use in Canada and for which no MRL has been established.

The compliance rates (by test) for pesticide residues in all food commodities tested ranged from 98.05% to 100%. Most pesticide residue violations were associated with pesticides that did not have a specific MRL established. In addition to pesticides, domestic and imported honey was also tested for residues of bee repellents and the overall compliance rate (by test) was 83.06 and 72.15%, respectively. It should be noted that low levels of these chemicals may occur naturally in honey and it can be difficult to distinguish natural sources from residues resulting from their use as bee repellents. The low levels of bee repellents typically detected in honey do not pose a human health concern.

Foods of animal and plant origin were tested for up to 20 different metals. As there are few MRLs or maximum levels for metals in food established by Health Canada, compliance rates were not calculated. The results for the metals that pose the greatest inherent human health risk (arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead) are described in detail in this report. Samples containing higher than historically expected levels were assessed to determine whether they represented a human health concern.

A number of foods of animal and plant origin were tested for various contaminants including melamine, mycotoxins and bisphenol A (BPA). There was no melamine detected in domestic or imported eggs or dairy products. Dairy products were tested for mycotoxins and the compliance rate was 100%. BPA was detected in 16.67% of imported canned processed products. The levels of BPA detected do not pose a human health concern. There are no established maximum levels for BPA in foods.

All violations were assessed to determine the appropriate follow-up action. These actions can include notification of the producer or importer, follow-up inspections or further directed sampling according to a surveillance plan. If Health Canada determines that the product could pose a health risk to consumers or certain segments of the population, a product recall may be initiated. Follow-up actions vary according to the magnitude of the health risk, with the objective of preventing any repeat occurrence or further distribution of the product in the marketplace.

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