A New Regulatory Framework for Federal Food Inspection: Discussion Document
Commodity-Specific Safety Requirements

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Food Safety Requirements for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Most food commodities are prepared in a manner to reduce potential food safety hazards. Fresh fruits and vegetables, however, are sold raw and often not cooked prior to being consumed. There are many sources of contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables in pre-harvest production and post-harvest processing and handling. Microbiological food safety hazards can be introduced at the farm level through irrigation systems from questionable water sources, proximity of animals to the growing and harvesting operations, food contact surfaces, personnel hygiene and soil conditions and treatments.

In recent years, the majority of global outbreaks have been associated with fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, CFIA conducted an analysis of this food commodity sector. It found that fresh fruits and vegetables present the fastest growing microbiological safety risk among food commodities. In addition to the potential for sickness and death, a food safety outbreak originating from a single farm could have devastating economic consequences to the entire sector and diminish consumer confidence in fresh fruits and vegetables.

On January 4, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States released for public comment its proposed rule to establish science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms shipping to the United States. The US proposes to set standards associated with identified routes of microbial contamination of produce, including: (1) agricultural water; (2) biological soil amendments of animal origin (3) health and hygiene (4) animals in the growing area and (5) equipment, tools and buildings. The proposed produce rule covers most fruits and vegetables while they are in their raw or natural (unprocessed) state. It would not apply to raw agricultural commodities that are rarely consumed raw, those produced for personal or on-farm consumption, and (with certain documentation) those destined for commercial processing, such as canning, that will adequately reduce microorganisms of public health concern. Some farms would not be covered by the rule, or would be eligible for a partial exemption based on factors including the monetary value of their food sales and to whom they sell.

Recognizing the Canadian environment for fresh fruit and vegetable producers, the Government of Canada is considering establishing requirements for fresh fruit and vegetable producers to develop, document, implement and maintain a PCP if they export or send or convey fresh fruits and vegetables across provincial borders for sale. Producers simply selling fresh fruits and vegetables within their province would not be required to have PCPs given the size of their operations and extent of consumer exposure to their products.

In Canada, the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has proactively developed and is voluntarily maintaining a CFIA recognized and internationally benchmarked food safety program (CanadaGAP). The Government is considering establishing legal requirements for primary producers of fresh fruits and vegetables which would be very similar to the elements of CanadaGAP.

Proposal:

  • Establish requirements for fresh fruit and vegetable producers that send or convey fresh fruits and vegetables from one province to another or export. (See Annex 2).
  • Impose the PCP requirements on fresh fruit and vegetable producers who send or convey from one province to another or export fresh fruits and vegetables intended to be sold directly to market.

Question 21: Do you support a requirement for fresh fruit and vegetable producers to develop, document, implement and maintain a PCP if they send or convey directly to market in other provinces or other countries?

Slaughter

Operators of establishments that slaughter animals intended for food have unique facilities and carry out specialized activities that are not performed in other food establishments. Presently there are multiple inspection systems for slaughter facilities (i.e., by species) reflecting the different industry handling practices. The CFIA conducts ante- and post-mortem inspection activities to support animal health, humane treatment, food safety and quality and market access objectives.

As with all other regulatory provisions, existing regulatory requirements related to slaughter will need to be brought under the SFCA. At an international level, a number of Canada's major trading partners are examining changes to how oversight of animal slaughter facilities is carried out. Moving forward, the CFIA will look to modernizing its approach to ante- and post-mortem inspection activities consistent with the concepts found in the Improved Food Inspection Model.

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