Focus on food contact surfaces, advises Canadian listeria expert

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Foodborne illness

Focus on food contact surfaces, advises Canadian listeria expert
Food contact surfaces, rather than non food contact ones, should be the focus of Canadian legislation aimed at eliminating listeria, according to a federal government advisor on food safety.

Speaking exclusively to, Rick Holley, a member of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) advisory panel, said:

My concern is that the CFIA is still in negotiation with the industry and has indicated that it intends to put in place non food contact environmental testing for ceilings and walls. That would deflect resources (from food contact surfaces) and prove counter productive​.”

I’d advise them to scrap it​ (greater testing of non food contact surfaces). It won’t provide greater level of certainty that the rooms in which the​ (food) products are manufactured are any safer.”

It would be far better to focus new testing procedures on the areas of greatest risk which are food contact surfaces, he added.

New rules on testing non food contact surfaces are expected in the early autumn.

Ready-to-eat meats

Last month, CFIA introduced new more rigorous testing rules for ready-to-eat-meats which will come into force from 1 April 2009.

Meanwhile, Holley questioned Canada’s financial commitment to eliminating listeria. “We don’t have the financial resources to address listeria and listeriosis and that is symptomatic of larger problems​.”

Canadian food-borne illness surveillance is passive and not “usefully comprehensive,​” said Holley. “It’s been cut back since the late ‘80s due to other fiscal priorities​.”

Also, two-tiered food safety inspection systems, including federal and provincial monitoring, complicate testing procedures unnecessarily, he said.

Risk of Infection

Finally, not enough attention was paid to risk of food infection arising from animal feed contaminants, said Holley.

Earlier this month CFIA and Portuguese Cheese Company advised the public not to eat St John’s brand Fresh Cheese which may be contaminated with listeria.

No reported illnesses have been linked to this product.

An outbreak of listeriosis in Canada last summer was linked to the deaths of 20 people.

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