- Food recalls and allergy alerts (http://active.inspection.gc.ca/eng/corp/recarapp_dbe.asp) as well as “high risk” food recall warnings (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/recarapp/recaltoce.shtml). Whenever you learn of a recall from a specific company, it’s worth checking the CFIA’s site to see if the food producer has a history of similar recalls that point to a larger concern or pattern. (Again, it’s essential to consider the jurisdictional sharing of powers on issues such as this and supplement these data with records from individual provincial ministries that deal with food safety, which also issue recalls and take enforcement action against companies that sell food within provincial boundaries).
- The CFIA also publishes audits, reviews, and evaluations, which contain potentially invaluable information about resource issues, “lessons learned” from food-safety incidents, and proposed policy changes to food-safety oversight protocols. (www.inspection.gc.ca/english/agen/eval/evale.shtml)
- Also, keep in mind that Canada exports food to other countries that have an abiding interest in its safety. The United States, for example, sends inspectors to Canada each year to look inside our food-production facilities. The resulting reports are published by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov). CTV reporters Bob Fife and Philip Ling used those records in 2013 to tell the inside story of the country’s largest ever beef recall. After Canadian officials refused to explain what was happening in the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta, the journalists found the answers: “For more than a decade, U.S. authorities detailed deficiencies they had found at XL Foods plants, including sloppy record-keeping, equipment held together by duct tape and, in one case, a gruesome scene of animal blood dripping into edible meat products.
XL Foods plants have also been shut out of the U.S. market numerous times since 2001.”
- While food-production oversight is generally a federal responsibility, provincial and municipal governments also play an important role. Many provincial health or agriculture ministries have oversight over smaller food-production and -processing facilities and conduct investigations into food-safety concerns. Municipal governments are generally responsible for inspecting restaurants and other food establishments—inspections which generate reports that should be made public on websites or upon request.