Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Safe Food for Canadians Act

On June 7, 2012 the Harper Government introduced the Safe Food for Canadians Act.  This act will "strengthens and modernizes our food safety system to make sure it continues to provide safe food for Canadian" (Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz).  This will mean more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities, tougher penalties for activities (eg. tampering, deceptive practices, hoaxes) that put health and safety of Canadians at risk, better control over imports and exports and strengthening food traceability.  The Act consolidates the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act.  The penalties under the new act will be substantial, as high as $5,000,000, or in the case of the most serious offenses could be even higher at the court’s discretion.  Regulated parties will be able to seek a review of certain decisions made by CFIA officials.

What does this mean to the average Canadian?  In my opinion and having traveled outside of Canada, I consider Canada's food supply to be quite safe.  The CFIA is very good at warning the public of potential health risks associated with foods.  Recently both New Brunswick and Saskatoon have had E.coli outbreaks, the same strain (0157:H7) as the Walkerton outbreak in 2000.  When an individual contracts this type of food borne illness, the public health unit is quickly notified.  They in turn, notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who then takes action that results in recalls of the tainted product.  The problem is, there can still be tainted product in freezers across the country that could be consumed causing illness because the product code was not checked by the consumer when the recall was issued.

While I applaud our government's efforts at making our food safer, I would like to see more education for the consumer on food safety.  The consumer must take a responsibility in food safety as well.  I am a home canner who cans low acid (eg. meats, vegetables, stocks, soups) and high acid (eg. fruits, jams, jellies, pickles).  I know how to can safely using the proper equipment.  Low acid foods (pH 4.6 or lower) must be pressure canned using a pressure canner.  The number one question I get on my cooking blog is "Can I use a boiling water bath canner to can my green beans?"  Well no you can't, you must use a pressure canner!  High acid foods must be processed in a boiling water bath canner not simply inverted to seal.  The problem with home canned foods that you see in some specialty shops, roadside stands, orchards and at food events (eg. rib fests, county fairs, community events) is there is no way of knowing whether they have been properly processed.  The second problem is home canned foods like cake in a jar are unsafe regardless of how they were processed.  The third problem but more of a quality rather than safety issue is direct exposure to sunlight.

Home canning has seen a resurgence in Canada since the y2K scare and with the growing concern over food additives and pesticide residues combined with preserving the harvest from organic home gardens.  It should be noted that home canning has always been popular in rural locations, amongst certain religious sects, and for those who hunt or fish.  The CFIA really needs to address this.  I'd like to see more information on home canning put out by our government.  Let's say a case of botulism (which is rare but possible with home canned foods) is traced to home canned food.  Does it fall under the new Safe Food for Canadians Act?  Or does it only fall under the Act if the home canned food was sold at some type of venue?  Are some venues exempt?


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