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E.coli contamination top issue for Canadians, says survey

By Joe Whitworth , 18-Dec-2012

Canadian Food Safety Alliance E.coli poll
Canadian Food Safety Alliance E.coli poll

E.coli contamination is top of the agenda for Canadians, ranking above all other food safety issues, including GMOs and pesticide use, according to a survey.

The Canadian Food Safety Alliance (CFSA) found the importance of dealing with food safety ranked ahead of a number of other issues and awareness of the issue was on a par with deficit reduction and foreign takeovers.

Main findings included half of Canadians surveyed believe that E.coli incidents have increased over the last five years and 42% have decreased beef consumption as a result, but 55% said they eat about the same amount.

Responsible agencies

Processors and meat inspectors are seen to be mainly (equally) responsible for the E.coli outbreak, followed by government, farmers who raise the beef, the consumer who prepares the beef and the grocery store that sells it.

The survey sampled 1,000 adult Canadian citizens from 20-22 November via the internet.

Only 11% believed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are doing “everything they can” compared to 15% who believe they are “not doing enough”.

Asked whether the country was moving in the right direction, 33% agreed but 28% said it was on the wrong track to tackle food safety issues.

Processing plants and big box/discount retailers were seen as the most likely places to purchase E.coli contaminated beef, while local butchers and organic beef are seen to be the least likely sources.

Immunization call

The survey found there is a need for better process and inspection of beef with 58% in favour of immunization with 35% believing federal government should pay for it and 22% the meat processors.

Supporters of immunization cite the need to deal with the pathogen at the source, and to deal with E.coli across the food supply.

Opponents are concerned about placing medications in animals that will ultimately end up being consumed by humans.

Further E.coli issues

Last month, $1m of investment was announced over 18 months by Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Genome Alberta on behalf of ALMA, Genome Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The aim is to develop tests to detect E.coli during food production.

The CFIA temporarily suspended the licence of XL Foods in October after it was found to be the source of an outbreak of E.coli which resulted in 16 illnesses and the recall of more than 1,800 products across the US and Canada.  

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