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Operational procedure: Visual examination of container integrity

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff with the procedure to verify that packaged food in Canada is safe, wholesome and meets the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations and the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with the Standard Inspection Procedures and the Operational Guideline on General Principles of Sampling.

The guidance outlined below may be used to aid in the assessment of a Preventive Control Plan (PCP) related sub-element, or as part of a food safety investigation or follow-up to a complaint.

2.0 Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines.

3.0 Reference documents

4.0 Definitions

Unless specified below, definitions are located in either the:

For the purpose of this document the following definitions apply:

Low-acid food
means a food, other than an alcoholic beverage, where any component of the food has a pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85
Acidified low-acid food
is a food that has been treated by pickling or fermentation so as to attain an equilibrium pH of 4.6 or lower after heat processing (for example pickles)
Hermetically sealed
means a container designed and intended to be secure against the entry of microorganisms, including spores
Commercially sterile
means the condition obtained in a food that has been processed by the application of heat, alone or in combination with other treatments, to render the food free from viable forms of microorganisms, including spores, capable of growing in the food at temperatures at which the food is designed normally to be held during distribution and storage.

5.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in this document and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6.0 Operational procedure

6.1 Procedure for low-acid food product or acidified low-acid food product in a metal can

6.1.1 Inspect the selected container and complete the appropriate worksheets

Inspect the containers according to the Visual Examination of Commercially Sterile Low-Acid and Acidified Low-Acid Foods Packed in Hermetically Sealed Containers.

Use the same terminology and classification of defects as described in the Metal Can Defects – Identification and Classification.

The worksheet Visual Inspection of Hermetically Sealed Containers (internal access only – RDIMS 11442331) is available as a tool for recording observations. Enter inspection findings into (data capture system to be determined).

6.1.2 Follow up

Unsatisfactory Inspection Results: When the results of the visual examination are unsatisfactory (that is one or more serious defects are found):

  1. Detain the inspection lot and other suspect lots (if any). Use Operational procedure-Procedure for seizure and detention, authorizing movement and disposition.
  2. Determine if the lot(s) have been distributed and if so, follow the guidance in the Food incident response process and follow appropriate communication lines.
  3. Determine the cause and the extent of the issue (for example other lots produced on the same malfunctioning line, other lots produced with the same defective containers, other companies using the same defective containers).
  4. Refer to the CFIA Sampling Information (internal access only) for guidance in selecting an appropriate number of cans as per the directed sampling plan of the commodity (for example processed products) and send to the laboratory for commercial sterility and container integrity analysis. Notes: The laboratory analysis is the official confirmation of the container integrity verification.

    If the Job Assessment on the Laboratory Report of Analysis is:

  5. If product is in distribution, document the findings in the Issues Management System (IMS) as per business rules.
  6. Follow the Standard Inspection Procedure (SIP) or CVS to verify that corrective actions implemented by licensed operators are effective to ensure safety of products received.

6.2 Inspection procedure for containers other than metal can for low-acid food product or acidified low-acid food product

Inspection protocols for other package types are currently under development.

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF).

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