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Canada tops world food safety rankings

Conference Board of Canada finds 67% of Canadians believes their food is safer than five years ago

Canadians have a lot to be proud about when it comes to our country's world-class ranking. Now food safety can be added to the list.

In a new report by the Conference Board of Canada, the country ranked first among 17 member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (or OECD) for food safety performance.

The report was based on 10 indicators across three food safety risk governance categories, including assessment, management, and communication.

According to the report's authors, Canada's first-place finish (followed by Ireland and France) was due to "consistently low number of food-borne illness cases and reported recalls, Canada's new policy on allergen labeling and a greater focus on transparency."

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The report found 67% of Canadians believe their food is safer than it was five years ago.

Canadian grocery experts were happy but unsurprised by the report's findings.

"It's great news," said Gary Sands, vice president public policy of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, which represents more than 4,000 food retailers.

"But it's not all that surprising when you consider the efforts that have been made to improve food safety in Canada."

According to Sands, one major effort was the federal government-led committee he co-chaired a decade ago that reviewed and approved the processes now in place for food safety practices from farm gate to people's plate.

"There have been tremendous improvements made at and by every link in the food chain, and those efforts continue," he told Canadian Grocer.

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Food safety, he added, remains the top priority for food retailers of all stripes.

"It's a critical issue because they are on the front line with consumers," said Sands.

Susan Abel, vice president safety and compliance with the Food and Consumer Products of Canada, said the report's findings are a validation of the world-class collaboration between Canadian food producers, processors, retailers and government.

“Canadians enjoy the safest, highest quality foods in the world," said Abel. "This is because manufacturers work every day with safety as their number one priority.”

For the report's co-author, those efforts will need to be sustained in an increasingly globalized food market.

"Increasingly, food regulators around the world will compel industry to become more accountable to consumers in order to better mitigate systemic risks," wrote Dr. Sylvain Charlebois of the University of Guelph's Food Institute.

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