Emphasis Laid on Food Safety Systems

CANADA - A Winnipeg based food safety expert suggests comprehensive food safety systems is the best line of defense against the bacterial contamination of processed food products, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 30 January 2009
clock icon 2 minute read
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A Health Canada-Canadian Food Inspection Agency working group, formed in response to last summer's national listeriosis outbreak, is recommending several regulatory changes including increased end product testing by CFIA.

Dr. Rick Holley, with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, says US initiatives to increase end product testing are a less than positive approach to food safety and he is concerned Canada may follow that direction.

Dr. Rick Holley-University of Manitoba

You can't test safety into end products.

You can't inspect safety into products.

You have to build it in.

The food safety systems that the food processing plants use, which are approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, should be adequate to address the issues associated with listeria monocytogenes in the final products and prevent the organism from ever getting in there in the first place.

We just can't test enough product to give us a good statistically valid idea of whether or not the organisms are likely to be causing a problem in the products and so what we must do is take a pro-active approach and use the safety systems that we all know about and make sure that they're working properly and then monitor.

Testing has a role to play in terms of validating the operation of the food safety system and, then finally, end product testing is again used as a validation step but a validation step only and it shouldn't be used as a demonstration or interpreted as meaning that since one sample is negative that all of the samples are negative or that for that matter one sample is positive and all of the samples are therefore positive.

It just doesn't work that way.

Dr. Holley believes the emphasis should not be placed on end product testing, but rather the further development of comprehensive food safety systems that are used and monitored appropriately.

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