• Cooper's CSA Farm

Food Recalls; Why does this happen?

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

What is a food recall?

‘Action taken to remove from sale, distribution and consumption, foods which may pose a safety risk to consumers.’

Lately, we have been affected by a few food recalls. For example, here are 3 different types of food recalls that have had an impact here in Ontario.

  1. Crisp & Delicious Chicken Breast Nuggets – Uncooked Seasoned Breaded Chicken Cutlets (very high risk), Ex. of a Meat recall.

  2. Industry is recalling certain Ottogi brand noodle products from the marketplace because they contain egg which is not declared on the label. Ex. of a Dry Goods recall.

  3. Industry is recalling certain cauliflower, red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce produced by Adam Bros. Farming Inc. of Santa Maria, California, United States (US) from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. a

Why do food products get recalled?

**CFIA= Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • Illness outbreak - Public health officials identify a potential link between illness and a specific food.

  • Food test result - Food test results obtained by the CFIA, industry, a provincial or territorial government or another country identify a possible health risk.

  • CFIA inspection finding - CFIA inspection activities, such as visual observation of products and manufacturing practices or analysis of company records, detect a food safety concern.

  • Consumer complaint - A consumer complaint is received about the safety of a food product.

  • Company-initiated recall- A company informs the CFIA that it is undertaking a self-initiated recall.

  • Recall in other country - Another country recalls a food product that is also present in Canada.

  • Other triggers - Other triggers can include information from law enforcement about potential food tampering, trade complaints, information from consumer associations, or even posts on social media websites.

Some of the time products become recalled due to undeclared items being imported from other countries, the CFIA cannot track these items so they recall them as a preventative measure. When items become recalled due to some form of contamination, well that is a whole different story…

When it comes to fresh produce, how do items become contaminated? For example;

  • Disgruntled Employees – Poor wages, work environments, poor employee-employer relationships etc. Some employees act out, seeking some sort of revenge on their employer.

  • Poor Health Standards- Not all farms stay as clean as others, nor do they enforce the same cleanliness such as hand washing and the use of gloves.

  • Irrigation- Sometimes water sources become contaminated and contaminants are transferred to the plants via watering systems.

  • Poor Maintenance-Many farms and packaging facilities use conveyer belts and sorting systems to clean and package their items. These machines need to be washed after every use! If not, risk for contamination greatly increases.

One of the main reasons fresh produce becomes contaminated is a reason why you should buy locally grown produce. Too many hands on the produce.

When you by lettuce from California;

  1. Mass amounts harvested by workers.

  2. Moved to a washing a packaging facility.

  3. Sent to a shipping distributor.

  4. Placed on a truck and travels across country.

  5. Stopped and inspected at the border.

  6. Unloaded at grocery store.

  7. Put out on display by grocery staff. (Where it could sit for days)

  8. Touched by a whole lot of other shoppers.

When you buy lettuce from your local farmer here in Ontario;

  1. Only amount needed is harvested & washed. How do we know this? We come to know average attendance at markets, we look at the weather forecast, and sometimes when days are oddly busier than normal, we don’t bring enough.

  2. Depending on where markets are, lettuce travels a couple KMs.

  3. Lettuce is set out on display.

  4. Sold to you at farmers markets or on farm stores. Within 24 hours the lettuce is available to the consumers and generally, only the farm staff have handled the lettuce. Example: Our farm only has 4 harvesters that cut and wash the lettuce, then it is sent with our market staff to be sold at the local farmers markets, and finally it is in your basket.

** There are many local greenhouses here in Ontario that grow a lot more lettuce specifically for Grocery stores. This is still a much safer option as it has been handled far less then produce coming from out of province/country. Look for “Grown in Ontario” on the labels in grocery stores.

When you buy local, the risk of contamination is greatly reduced. The amount that your produce comes in contact with people & surfaces, before it gets to you, is also cut in half.

When you buy produce from your local, Ontario farmers (the closer to your town, the better!);

  • You are getting the most fresh, best tasting produce out there.

  • Reassurance; Farmers have a lot of health standards to keep up with. These are enforced by CFIA, Canada GAP Certification & Food Boards

  • Less hands and handling surfaces have been in contact with your items. Less contact= less potential exposure to contamination.

Canada has one of the safest food handling systems in the world, with very high health standards for its producers. That being said, stuff happens… Canada’s Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is on top of things and they have a very good traceability system. They also have continuous updates for the public when a local recall has been made. Check out these links to keep up with recalls in Canada and to know more information like what you should do if you have a recalled item.

More info about Recalls & Active List of Canadian Recalls

In conclusion, food recalls are not all “extreme risk” cases, check out current recalls so you can stay food safe. You also now have another great reason as to why you should BUY LOCAL!

Just a little Farm for Thought for you all,

Have a great week!

-The Coopers

visit our website www.coopersfarm.ca to learn more about how you can get your food right from the farm!

*Cough, Cough* product placement *Cough, Cough* ... ;)

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