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Stay Calm and Eat On: Your Food is Safe

By: Kelly Bettschen, Food Policy and Food Safety Analyst, Livestock Branch

October 2016

Who is responsible for food safety in Saskatchewan and Canada?

Everyone from farm to fork has a responsibility when it comes to food safety! From the farmer who grows the crop or raises the animal, and  ensures proper withdrawal times for sprays or antibiotics; to the processors who ensure proper handling of food products and labelling; and,  finally to the consumer who practices the correct food handling at home.

Farmers markets are inspected by regional health authorities.  All food sold in Canada must meet the federal Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act/Regulations and the Food and Drugs Act/Regulations.  These pieces of legislation require that all food sold in Canada is safe for human consumption and meets labelling requirements that do not mislead the consumer. Depending on the market and the type of product being sold, the regulations may vary.  Food processors may be required to meet municipal, provincial, federal or export requirements.  Many municipalities, cities or towns will have requirements for food processors in regards to water and sewer, waste disposal, business licences, etc.  Provincially, facilities may be inspected by regional health authorities or other government inspectors depending upon the product being processed and the market.    Products being shipped to export markets may have additional requirements specific to that country.

In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently working with industry and other partners to modernize and strengthen its food safety system and make food safer for consumers.  The Safe Food for Canadians Act received Royal Assent in November of 2012, and will create a single set of food inspection regulations that apply to all food imported, exported and prepared for inter-provincial trade.  

For information on the Safe Food for Canadians Act and to stay up to date on progress you can check out the Safe Food for Canadians webpages.

What about organic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

Organic and GMO food products are ways to describe how the food product was grown or processed.  These production methods don’t impact food safety or the nutritional value of the food product.  

GMOs have been approved and analyzed by Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration as being safe.  Some common GMO crops include: soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow).  More information on regulations for GMO foods can be found on Health Canada's web page The Regulation of Genetically Modified Food.

Organic products that are imported or sold between provinces, or that bear the Canada Organic logo, must meet the Organic Standards, which state how animals can be housed, fed, transported and slaughtered, and how crops can be grown, processed and stored.  These regulations dictate which substances, such as pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, can be used to treat and prevent pests and diseases.  More information on organic regulations can be found in the Organic Products webpages on the CFIA website.

What about hormone use in Canada?

In Canada, hormone use is not permitted in poultry or pork.  In Canada, all swine and poultry are raised without added hormones. 

Hormone implants are allowed in the beef sector.  Using hormone implants directs growth towards muscle and away from fat, which boosts growth rate and means less feed is needed for the animal to gain weight.  Hormone implants are regulated and have required withdrawal times before animals go to slaughter. This means that hormone levels in the beef we buy are miniscule. Significant research has taken place to show that beef with hormone implants is safe.  Information on hormone use in beef can be found in this Saskbeef factsheet.

What about antibiotic use in animals?

Prudent use of antibiotics is important to treat infections, protect animal welfare and prevent resistance.  All farmers and ranchers are required to follow proper withdrawal times for animals that have been treated with antibiotics.  There are no antibiotics in Canadian meat.  In addition, animals and food products are monitored for the presence of antibiotic residues throughout the food chain. More information on antibiotic use in livestock can be found on the Beef Cattle Research web page on Antimicrobial Resistance

Canada boasts a world-class food system and our government sets high standards for food safety. Consumers have more choices than ever before as marketing and advertising campaigns are designed to differentiate products.  Consumer need not be alarmed, all food sold in Canada is subject to the same food safety standards.  We must stay calm and eat on as our food is safe.

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