Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program

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The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) is a federal food safety program jointly administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Environment Canada (EC) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The goal of the program is to protect Canadians from the health risks associated with the consumption of contaminated bivalve molluscan shellfish (for example, mussels, oysters and clams).

Under the CSSP, the Government of Canada implements controls to verify that only shellfish that meet food safety and quality standards reach domestic and international markets.

Roles and Responsibilities

Three partners work to deliver the program:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

  • regulates the import and export, processing, packaging, labelling, shipping, certification, storage, repacking of shellfish to protect against contamination and product quality degradation and to maintain source and lot identity and integrity;
  • suspends operations or decertifies shellfish processors on the basis of unacceptable operating and sanitation conditions;
  • regulates the depuration (i.e., controlled purification) of shellstock, verifies product quality and purification effectiveness, maintains production and product quality records;
  • maintains a biotoxin surveillance program of shellfish growing areas in support of DFO and CFIA activities;

Environment Canada:

  • identifies safe shellfish harvest areas in Canada, which includes ongoing water quality monitoring of fecal contamination, in accordance with the CSSP Manual of Operations criteria;
  • conducts comprehensive sanitary and bacteriological water quality surveys in shellfish harvest areas in Canada;
  • identifies and assesses sources of point and non-point pollution that would impact harvest areas, such as municipal sewage, industrial wastes and agriculture run-off;
  • recommends classification of shellfish harvest areas based on the results and analyses of these activities to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for regulatory implementation;

Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

  • controls the harvesting of shellfish from areas which are classified as contaminated or otherwise closed;
  • patrols growing areas, apprehends and prosecutes persons violating restrictions;
  • regulates and supervises relaying, transplanting and replanting;
  • restricts harvesting of shellfish from actual and potentially affected growing areas in a public health emergency;
  • regulates licenses, harvesting locations and times and minimum harvest sizes for stock management purposes.

Health Canada establishes policies, regulations and standards related to the safety and nutritional quality of food, including seafood. It also conducts health risk assessments in order to inform and protect Canadians from the health risks associated with food.

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For the latest updates about closures in your area, contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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