Archived - Statistics: Food Safety Investigations

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The food safety investigation and recall process is initiated when there is reason to believe that a potentially contaminated food has reached the marketplace.

The Canadian food supply is one of the safest in the world. However, no food safety system can guarantee zero risk. At any point in the production system, food can become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, undeclared allergens or material such as glass or metal fragments.

There are several triggers that start a food safety investigation, which could lead to a food recall. These include:

  • an illness outbreak
  • test results from sampling conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), industry, a provincial or territorial government or even another country through routine testing of imported Canadian food products at its border
  • CFIA inspection finding
  • consumer complaint
  • company-initiated recall
  • recall in another country

The objectives of a food safety investigation are:

  • to identify which foods could be contaminated and with what
  • to determine if there is a risk of more people becoming ill
  • to determine how far in the food distribution system a potentially harmful product has been distributed (i.e. manufacturer/importer, distributor, retail or consumer level)
  • to determine if a recall and/or other action (e.g. detention of product or suspension of operating licence) is needed to protect consumers
  • to identify the root cause of the problem, if possible.

On average, the CFIA conducts approximately 3,000 food safety investigations each year.

Food Safety Investigations

Food Safety Investigations: April 2006 - March 2013. Description follows.
Description for bar graph - April 2006 - March 2013 Table
April 2006 - March 2013
Apr 06 - Mar 07 Apr 07 - Mar 08 Apr 08 - Mar 09 Apr 09 - Mar 10 Apr 10 - Mar 11 Apr 11 - Mar 12 Apr 12 - Mar 13
Total Food Safety Investigations
3104 3040 3439 2904 2956 2808 3034

Food Safety Investigations by Hazard

Food Safety Investigations by Hazard: April 2006 - March 2013. Description follows.
Description for bar graph - April 2006 - March 2013 Table
April 2006 - March 2013
Apr 06 - Mar 07 Apr 07 - Mar 08 Apr 08 - Mar 09 Apr 09 - Mar 10 Apr 10 - Mar 11 Apr 11 - Mar 12 Apr 12 - Mar 13
Undeclared Allergen Issues 365 254 230 238 351 397 358
Chemical Issues 386 479 473 354 293 276 218
Extraneous Material Issues 1329 1321 1587 1263 1305 1180 1196
Microbiological Issues 890 859 1030 931 830 754 1118
Other Food Safety Issues 134 127 119 118 177 201 144


Undeclared allergen
A food product contains ingredients such as peanuts, milk or eggs that are not identified on the label and that can cause adverse reactions in people who are allergic to the item.
A food product contains chemical residues such as lead, mercury or pesticides that, at certain levels, can affect human health.
Extraneous material
A food product contains material from an outside source, such as metal, glass or hair. These are not necessarily a risk to human health.
A food product is contaminated by micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites, which have the potential to cause illness.
A food product is of concern due to the presence of marine biotoxins or non-permitted food ingredients; or due to nutrition concerns, irradiation or other health concerns; or tampering.
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