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Medical association slams Canada's "inadequate" food safety


The Canadian Medical Association Journal is taking government and the food industry to task for what it says is a lacklustre effort to detect, control and report on illnesses caused by food.

An editorial issued yesterday in the journal, called "Food in Canada: Eat at Your Own Risk," says Canada has an inadequate surveillance system and a "lack of incentives to keep food safe along the farm to fork pathway."

The magazine cited a recent report entitled "World Ranking: 2010 food safety performance" which evaluated food safety in 17 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Canada was ranked in the middle of the pack for controlling foodborne pathogens.

Canada ranked near the bottom, 15th in fact, on the issue of traceability–a broad term that refers to being able to track how a food goes from the farm to the dinner table.

"What is worrisome is that this is the situation almost three years after the listeriosis outbreak in 2008, when at least 20 people died as a consequence of eating contaminated meats," the Canadian Medical Association Journal wrote, in reference to the event caused by contamination at a Maple Leaf plant.

The article estimated the number of food-related cases of gastroenteritis in Canada at 11 million per year, though it added that the real number is probably higher given that fewer than 1 in 200 cases are reported.

The journal said that Canada's food safety oversight needs to be overhauled with uniform regulations across the country and incentives to encourage better food safety at every point in the system.

It also wants faster reporting and better monitoring of imported foods.

"Canada needs to adopt rigorous food safety standards that value food safety over profitability," the editorial stated.

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