A new report by the Conference Board of Canada is providing the foundation for building strategies to improve food safety. The purpose of the new study is to encourage an informed dialogue about how well current food safety systems perform, what could be changed to enhance performance and what options are appropriate for achieving change.
Daniel Munro, Principal Research Associate, noted, “It is commonly assumed that farms and food processing companies hold the most responsibility for ensuring safe food, and their role is critical. But most food-borne illnesses are associated with the preparation and storage practices of restaurants, food service operations and consumers themselves.”
With respect to the role of farmers in preventing foodborne illness, we couldn’t agree more. In fact, the LGMA is built around the concept that in order to protect public health, it is crucial that we prevent foodborne pathogens from contaminating leafy greens farms. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has examined the LGMA program and since 2007 requires that any California leafy greens that cross the border are from a certified LGMA member.
Findings from this new Canadian report are nearly identical to a similar study issued by a U.S. based non-profit group, the Alliance for Food and Farming in 2010. Both reports indicate the vast majority of foodborne illnesses are associated with mistakes in the final preparation and handling of food products either in a restaurant or in the consumers’ homes. The 2010 study includes U.S. Centers for Disease Control database statistics that show just 2 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks (between 1990 and 2007) can be traced back to a problem with the growing, packing, shipping or processing of a produce item. Both reports come to the same conclusion in recognizing that we all share in the responsibility of food safety and that, of course, this starts on the farm, but does not end there.
For its part, the Conference Board of Canada has issued this report to provide a foundation for developing its Canadian Food Strategy which it hopes to finalize by 2013. We will all watch this process closely as Canadian and U.S. food safety issues will continue to intersect.
Consumers who want to make sure they are using the best food safety practices at home can visit Be Food Safe for tips.