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Why Do We Have Food Recalls?

By Kelly Bettschen, Food Policy and Food Safety Analyst, Regina

July 2018

Here I sit, scrolling through the latest social media posts. Another food recall? What is it this time? E.coli? Salmonella? Listeria? Another allergen?

I know what many people are thinking: “Why does it seem like there are so many recalls these days? Who can I trust? Is our food really safe?”

So let’s dig into food recalls…

Food recalls are a sign that the system is working. When a foodborne illness, improperly labeled allergens or other food safety concern is found, it means that the checks and balances in the food system are working, the potentially unsafe food is being removed from the food system and the public is being notified. 

As the science evolves and testing methods become more specific, we are able to detect the causes of food-borne illnesses quicker and detect allergens at even lower levels. This is resulting in a safer food system, but may also lead to more recalls.

The new Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations will protect Canadian families by putting a greater emphasis on preventing risks to food safety. The regulations will provide clear and consistent rules for food commodities so consumers can be confident that food on grocery shelves is safe to eat, whether it is produced in Canada or abroad. Imported food will be held to the same standards as food produced in Canada.

Ultimately, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for monitoring food recalls. There are three classes of recalls, depending upon risk. Class I recalls are high risk and could include a scenario such as an improperly labelled allergen or a pathogen (such as E.coli) in a food product. Class II recalls are moderate risk and may include a scenario where a spoilage bacteria or mould could be present in the product, but it is unlikely to cause human illness. Finally, there are Class III recalls, which are low or no risk. This class of recall may include a product where font size is not correct on the label. The CFIA will determine the class or recall and then work closely with food businesses to ensure proper notification and product removal from the marketplace, if required.

Food recalls are really protecting me, my family, my friends and my community. They are one of the steps in place to ensure the safety of our food supply. I play an equally important role at home making sure I follow proper food handling there: cooking my meat properly, keeping hot foods hot and keeping cold foods cold.

So the next time a food recall pops up on your social media feed, remember: “Food recalls are a sign the system is working. Thank you, Canada, for a world-class food safety system.”

For more information, view or sign up for the list of food recall warnings from the CFIA.

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