TORONTO, Feb. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - The weakest links in food safety are found
closest to the plates of Canadian diners, according to a Conference
Board of Canada report, released on the second day of the Canadian Food
"Canada's food safety system generally does a good job at protecting the
health of Canadians, but improvement is needed," said Daniel Munro,
Principal Research Associate. "It is commonly assumed that farms and
food processing companies hold the most responsibility for ensuring
safe food, and their role is critical. But most food-borne illnesses
are associated with the preparation and storage practices of
restaurants, food service operations, and consumers themselves."
In its report, Improving Food Safety in Canada: Toward a More Risk Responsive System, the Conference Board estimates that there are close to 6.8 million
cases of food-borne illness annually in Canada. Most are mild and
involve minor discomfort and inconvenience. It is rare for consumption
of unsafe food to cause serious illness or death in Canada. In 2008,
there were 40 such deaths.
Seventy to 80 per cent of food poisoning illnesses are associated with
mistakes in the final preparation and handling of food products. About
half of all food-borne illnesses are acquired in restaurants and other
food service establishments, while many of the remaining cases are
linked to food that is stored and prepared in the home.
While farms and food processors are less often the source of food
illness, they too are part of the solution. Given their position in the
food supply chain and the huge numbers of consumers, even infrequent
failures can affect the health of many people.
The Conference Board of Canada report, prepared by the Board's Centre
for Food in Canada, identifies five potential areas for improvement:
Providing small and medium restaurants and food service operators with
management advice and information on how they can minimize food safety
risks and take effective action in the case of outbreaks. The current model emphasizes inspections, but they occur too
infrequently to have a decisive impact on day-to-day food safety
Encouraging better behaviour among consumers by building on current
consumer awareness programs. Consumers appear to know what they should be doing to prepare and
handle food safely, but they often don't put that knowledge to use.
Harmonizing private standards to protect the public interest. It is not well known how well the alphabet soup of private food safety
standards contributes to consumer protection.
Making greater use of technology to improve visibility and traceability. Technologies, such as innovations in manufacturing processes, better
machinery, food additives, and/or information technologies that assist
in tracing the origins of ingredients or products, can help improve
food safety. But some of these technologies entail new risks of their
own. Canadians would be well-served by an open debate on the potential
benefits and harm of food technology innovations.
Adding resources to address the potential increase in risks from
international food sources. As Canadian meals include more imported foods and ingredients than
ever before, additional resources would help ensure that international
foods meet Canadian standards.
The report provides a foundation for dialogue on Canada's food safety
system and coincides with the Canadian Food Summit 2012. Held Feb. 7
and 8 in Toronto, the Food Summit is part of the Centre for Food in
Canada (CFIC), a multi-year Conference Board of Canada program of
research and dialogue. About 25 companies and organizations have
invested in the project, which will culminate in 2013 with the
development of a Canadian Food Strategy.
Link to report: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=4671
Link to Centre for Food in Canada: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cfic.aspx
Link to Canadian Food Summit 2012: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/conf/12-0018.aspx
SOURCE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA
For further information:
Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221