Consumers play important role in recalls

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is urging Canadian consumers to consider their own role in the process of a food recall.

Aline Dimitri, Canada’s deputy chief food safety officer, said inspector findings trigger most recalls, but the agency relies on other ways as well.

Those include companies coming forward with concerns, public health agencies identifying local spikes in a food-related illness and recalls that take place in other countries on products that have also been imported to Canada.

But in the case of a flour contamination that emerged in the spring and led to widespread recalls throughout the country, it was a consumer complaint that triggered action.

The incident that put eight people in hospital and sickened 22 others had to do with the discovery of E. coli in a batch of flour from an Ardent Mills facility.

“CFIA went into the home, picked up the flour that epidemiologically seemed to be in cause and we tested it and then we actually had to test close samples, that’s where our investigations come in,” Dimitri said.

The agency’s office of food safety and recall handles all investigations but agency inspectors can also be brought in, depending on the size of the food issue and the risk it poses.

After a recall is closed, the agency will work with the sector to ensure the issue won’t recur.

When closing the loop in a recall, consumers also play a role by checking their individual kitchens and cupboards for flagged products.

“Because at the end of the day, if we remove everything that’s on the shelf, and the Canadian consumer still has something in the family cupboard and is not thrown out, then the risk is there,” Dimitri said.

The agency maintains information on its website and social media and offers a cellphone app, she said.

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