Family pride: Maple-syrup-edition

Daughter two-of-four of the Canadian bunch is entering her Harrowsmith years.

Before the pandemic, her and her partner sold their Toronto-area house and resorted to rural Ontario where they have embraced the country life.

(Harrowsmith, the magazine, was heralded as a back-to-the-land and environmental issues platform.)

And now she and her family have made honey from maple trees on the property.

My daughter says it was a great experience and she got to spend lots of outdoor time with her two sons (who have fabulous hair).

I shared these pics with my honey-producing long-time farmer colleague,  and he wrote back, “This is sooo good, dp. You should be proud of this. Producing food. Right on! “

I am proud. Of all my five daughters.

Travel, sprouts (the raw kind) and reptiles significant sources of Salmonella in Ontario

Former hockey buddy and nice veterinarian Scott McEwen at the University of Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada) is one of the authors of a paper investigating Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Typhimurium role in human salmonellosis in Ontario. Introduction of the Ontario Investigation Tools (OIT) in 2014 allowed for standardized case investigation and reporting. This study compared the risk factors and symptomatology for sporadic S. Heidelberg and S. Typhimurium cases reported in Ontario in 2015, following implementation of the OIT.

Multilevel logistic regression models were applied to assess associations between serotype and individual‐level demographic characteristics, exposures and symptoms for sporadic confirmed cases of S. Heidelberg and S. Typhimurium in Ontario in 2015. There were 476 sporadic cases of S. Typhimurium (n = 278) and S. Heidelberg (n = 198) reported in Ontario in 2015. There were significant associations between the odds of the isolate from a case being one of these serotypes, and travel, consumption of sprouts (any type), contact with reptiles and development of malaise, fever or bloody diarrhoea.

The S. Typhimurium and S. Heidelberg cases differed in both symptom presentation and risk factors for illness. Case–case comparisons of Salmonella serotypes have some advantages over case–control studies in that these are less susceptible to selection and recall bias while allowing for rapid comparison of cases to identify potential high‐risk exposures that are unique to one of the serotypes when compared to the other.

Comparing cases of two different Salmonella serotypes can help to highlight risk factors that may be uniquely associated with one serotype, or more strongly associated with one serotype compared to another. This information may be useful for understanding relative source attribution between common serotypes of Salmonella.

A case-case study comparing the individual risk factors and symptomatology of salmonella Heidelberg and salmonella typhimurium in Ontario, 04 May 2020

Zoonoses and Public Health

Katherine Paphitis, David L. Pearl, Olaf Berke, Scott A. McEwen, Lise Trotz‐Williams

Ontario (that’s in Canada): Food safety inspection programs

Foodborne illnesses in this province already account for 41,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms and 137,000 more to physicians’ offices each year. Contaminated food kills about 70 people in Ontario annually and sends another 6,600 to hospital.

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses range from mild nausea and stomach pains to, in rare cases, long-term health problems, and even death. Most people have had a mild case of food poisoning at one time or another without being aware of it— according to 2014 Public Health Ontario statistics, an estimated 96% of cases go unreported. Contamination of food can happen at any point in the food-supply chain, from the farm to transport to preparation and packaging. Meat, for example, can be rendered unfit by unclean conditions at slaughterhouses, or by contamination at meat-processing plants. Water runoff and sprays containing bacteria, pesticides, and other chemicals can affect the purity of farm produce. In addition, food at “food premises,” which Ontario law defines as any “premises where food or milk is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale,” can be contaminated with bacteria from the use of unsanitary utensils and improper cooking methods. In Ontario, prevention of foodborne illness is the responsibility of all three levels of government, which license and inspect food producers and food premises as follows:

• Meat, produce, fish and dairy produced, processed and consumed only in Ontario are generally the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Ministry of Agriculture).

• Food premises are inspected by 35 Public Health Units in municipalities across Ontario that are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and by the municipalities in which they are based.

• Food imported into Ontario from other provinces or countries, or produced in Ontario for export outside the province, is inspected by the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Forty-five percent of agriculture food products sold in Ontario are produced or processed within the province; the remaining half is imported from other provinces and countries, which means it is licensed and inspected by the federal CFIA. It is important that the Ministry of Agriculture do an effective job of licensing and inspecting producers to ensure that food produced in this province for sale to Ontarians is free of any contamination that might affect their health. Similarly, the Public Health Units have an important responsibility to make sure that 338 Chapter 3

• VFM Section 3.06 food is handled hygienically and prepared correctly to protect consumers. The Ministry of Agriculture spent about $39.5 million in the 2018/19 fiscal year on foodsafety licensing, inspections and other related services, while the Ministry of Health and municipalities spent about $63.1 million the same year to fund the Public Health Units. Total average annual spending by the two ministries and municipalities over the last five years on food safety was about $105.7 million. While the risk of a mass foodborne-illness outbreak in Ontario is likely low, small-scale food incidents could have the potential to occur because it would take only one diseased animal or one unclean restaurant. Our audit identified several areas where improvements could further minimize food-safety risks to Ontarians. We noted, for example, the following issues with respect to Ministry of Agriculture licensing and inspection of Ontario producers:

• Ninety-eight percent of meat tested negative for harmful drug residue, but in the 2% of cases of positive drug-residue test results, there was no follow-up with the farmers who raised the animals to prevent repeat occurrences. Since April 2015, about 300 meat samples (representing about 2% of the meat tested) taken from provincially inspected slaughterhouses were found to contain drug residues above prescribed standards. The lack of an appropriate process to follow up and educate farmers whose animals have tested positive increases the risk of such meat entering the food chain.

• Some pesticides banned for use in groundskeeping for health and safety reasons are found in Ontario-grown produce in levels exceeding Health Canada’s allowable limits. The Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act lists 131 pesticides that cannot be used for cosmetic groundskeeping, in parks and yards, for example, because of potential health and environmental concerns. However, their use is allowed in agriculture for operational and economic reasons. Between 2014 and 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture tested about 1,200 Ontario-grown produce samples and found residues of 14 banned pesticides that exceeded Health Canada limits a total of 76 times.

• Current legislation provides limited enforcement tools to compel fish processors to address food-safety infractions, resulting in repeat offences. Fish processors who sell only in Ontario do not require a licence to operate. The Ministry of Agriculture, therefore, may not be able to close them because there is no licence to revoke if inspectors identify serious food-safety deficiencies. The Ministry also has no legal power to issue fines or compliance orders. Our sample review of 182 inspection reports on fish-processing plants found that two-thirds of the infractions noted in 2018/19 were repeat offences that had also been observed in each of the two previous years.

• The Ministry of Agriculture did not receive sufficient information to provide sufficient oversight of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO). The Ministry delegated inspection of cow-milk producers to the DFO in 1998. However, the Ministry did not consistently receive sufficient information from DFO to provide adequate oversight of the organization. We found that DFO’s reports to the Ministry were high-level summaries that did not specifically identify non-compliant producers whose test samples repeatedly exceeded regulatory bacteria limits. In addition, the reports did not say what actions DFO took to address the issue of repeat offenders.

• The Ministry of Agriculture did not have complete details about the activities of produce farmers in Ontario to select appropriate producers for sample-testing. The Ministry’s inventory of farmers did not contain complete information on production volumes, type of crops grown, and where the produce Food Safety Inspection Programs 339 Chapter 3

• VFM Section 3.06 was sold. Such data would be useful to determine a risk-based food-sample-testing plan. We noted the following issues with Public Health Units, which are responsible to inspect food premises:

• Public Health Units did not investigate complaints of foodborne illnesses on a timely basis. Based on our review of inspection reports from 2016 to 2018 at five Public Health Units, we found that for those foodborne-illness complaints that required food premises inspections, the Public Health Units consistently did not inspect 20% of food premises within two days of receiving the complaint. The Public Health Units we visited informed us that a two-day timeline is considered a best practice.

• Different inspection-grading systems for food premises among Public Health Units provided inconsistent information to the public across Ontario. The degree of public disclosure of inspection results for food premises, along with the inspection-grading systems used by the 35 Health Units, varied across the province. The variations can be confusing to the public.

• While not all special events require inspections, only about 12% of them within the jurisdictions of the five Public Health Units we visited were inspected in 2018, and only about 15% in 2017. Public Health Units are required to assess food safety risks at temporary food premises, which include special events such as summer fairs and festivals, to determine if these premises require an inspection. However, we found that there are currently no minimum provincial requirements for the frequency of inspections of special events as there are for fixed food premises, such as restaurants. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, special events can be high risk because the usual safety features of a kitchen, such as the ability to monitor food temperatures and washing facilities, may not be available at outdoor events.

• Some food premises were never inspected until Public Health Units received complaints from the public. The lists of food premises kept by the five Health Units were not up to date. At the five Health Units we visited, we found 253 complaints received between 2016 and 2018 relating to food premises whose existence the Health Units were unaware of until they received the complaints. There were also several areas where current regulations and standards may be insufficient. For example:

• Businesses operating solely within Ontario can market their products as “organic” even if they are not certified to the Canadian Organic Standards. The CFIA requires certification for products labelled as organic when they are sold across provincial or international borders—but Ontario allows the sale of non-certified products labelled as organic within the province. In comparison, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all have laws requiring that organic food be certified to the Canadian Organic Standards even when it is sold only within their borders. Based on our research, there are at least 34 organic producers in Ontario that are not certified to the Canadian Organic Standards but are advertising their products as “organic.” The majority of these organic growers sell their products through farmers’ markets. We also noted that routine sample testing of produce for pesticides residue is not required for the CFIA organic certification process. • Sheep milk and non-chicken eggs are not subject to mandatory regulation or inspection for quality assurance. Milk from cows and goats, along with eggs from chickens, is regulated and inspected by the federal or Ontario governments, or both. However, 340 Chapter 3

VFM Section 3.06 there is no mandatory regulation or inspection of milk from sheep and water-buffalo, or of eggs from other fowl. In comparison, Manitoba and Alberta regulate all animals kept for the purpose of producing milk. Finally, we noted gaps in the inspections carried out by the different government entities responsible for food safety. We found, for example, that although the Ministry of Agriculture and the CFIA check for federal food-labelling requirements regarding allergens in provincial food-processing plants, they do not verify other labelling requirements, such as place of origin and nutritional value.

‘Basically rotting alive’: Family shocked by massive bedsore threatening man’s life

When I spent my summer of 1982 in jail for killing two people in a car crash, I spent a couple of months teaching other inmates basic reading – from kindergarten level on up – and then spent a couple of months working the day shift at Participation House in Brantford, cleaning up patient’s shit.

When I got out of jail and went back to uni — on parole — I spent my weekends working at Participation House in Kitchener.

Typically, I’d work 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday, sleep in the office apartment or with some local girl, then work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and then hitchhike back home to Guelph.

This is how quadriplegics empty their bowels: I would insert a suppository, chat with the dude or dudess for 20 minutes, then the poop would start flowing and I’d clean it up.

It was humbling work.

And we always worried about bedsores.

For months, Linda Moss and her two sisters took shifts at their father’s bedsides.

But while they sat and held his hand nearly every day, an unseen wound festered beneath his bed sheets.

(I’m not dying — yet —  but have made a special request for my wife to hold my hand; she’s not interested)

A bedsore had been silently forming on Bob Wilson’s backside, eating away at his flesh until it left a gaping hole bigger than a football.

Bedsores seriously under-reported, health-care experts say

Expert says pressure injuries such as bedsores are preventable

“We couldn’t believe what we saw,” Moss said.

“It was black, dead, rotted skin. He was basically rotting alive, and we had no idea.”

Eric Vandewall, president of Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, located about 60 kilometres southwest of Toronto, said he personally apologized to Wilson and his family for what happened, and staff are investigating.

“We are currently conducting a comprehensive and thorough review of Mr. Wilson’s care while he was at Joseph Brant Hospital and we will hold further meetings with Mr. Wilson’s family to share and discuss the results of our review,” he said.

‘It’s to the bone, and it’s pretty horrific’

Wilson, who is 77, fell in November and suffered a brain injury.

“It’s devastating,” said Moss. “It’s torture, and we felt a sense of guilt, because if [we’d known], we could have helped turn him, or something.

“What baffles us is how could a medical team and several people … put a Band-Aid over black, dead, rotted skin and not raise the flag?”

Vandewall said the hospital’s routine for immobile patients includes turning them daily and checking for pressure ulcers.

Um, we did that 40 years ago.


Raw is risky, even milk

Dec. 29 is always a bustling day, with my birthday, my 12-year-wedding-at-city hall in Manhattan, Kansas, but most importantly, my mother’s birthday.

I was born on her 21st birthday

How lucky were you (that’s sarcasm)

But my 77-year-old mother, sitting a few days ago with my four Canadian daughters (3 grandsons missing) wouldn’t be there if her father, Homer, hadn’t got rid of the cows.

Mom lived.

It was about 1943, and my mother developed undulate fever from drinking unpasteurized raw  milk.

Homer turned the farm into potatoes (as you do in Alliston, Ontario, that’s in Canada), and then became the asparagus baron of Canada.

A New York resident recently contracted the RB51 strain of the Brucella abortus bacteria after consuming raw milk.

New proposed changes to the Regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act in Ontario


New proposed changes to the Regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) in Ontario (Canada) are intended to modernize and ensure public health programs and services remain current to protect the health of Ontarians. A couple of the major highlights to the proposed changes to the Food Premises Regulation include mandatory on-site disclosure of inspections and mandatory food handler training for one person on shift at all times. There are a number of other modifications that include amendments to cleaning and sanitizing, temperature control and food handling.

The Ontario Food Premises Regulation was outdated and a number of concerns, in particular, with cleaning and sanitizing requirements have to come light a number of times in the past by industry and Regulators alike. Glad to see the modernization of the Regulation. However, when reading further into the proposed changes, one proposed amendment to another Regulation under HPPA is to remove the professional qualifications requirements for public health inspectors. Public health inspectors undertake specialized education and training in their field followed by a rigorous process of becoming Certified. Why remove their professional qualifications? They are highly trained on how to conduct food safety inspections, pool inspections and any other public health related inspections. Removing their qualifications in Ontario will not only provide inconsistency in Canada, they will also lose credibility.

Organic BS: Hucksters make a buck, plead guilty to fraud in Canada

Chapman and I toured southern Ontario tomato farms and processors 16 years ago, and shot youtube video, but youtube didn’t exist, so we didn’t know what to do with the video.

Here it is.

Trevor Wilhelm of the Windsor Star reports that bankrupt Maidstone tomato processing company received a controversial $3- million provincial grant is expected to plead guilty next month to purposely mislabelling products as organic.

An order signed by a Toronto judge states that William (Bill) Thomas, owner of Thomas Canning, has agreed to plead guilty on behalf of the company and pay a $40,000 fine. In exchange, several other charges against the company and Thomas himself will be withdrawn.

The judge’s order states the guilty plea must be entered no later than Nov. 23. Thomas’s next scheduled court appearance in Windsor is Nov. 6.

The guilty plea and $40,000 fine is part of a joint submission from prosecution and defence lawyers. But the judge’s order states the court is not bound by that submission.

According to documents previously filed in Ontario court by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Thomas and his company are accused of 11 offences in contravention of the Food and Drug Act, the Consumer Packaging Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

Thomas Canning and its owner are accused of labelling regular canned tomato products as organic.

The company and Thomas were also charged with falsifying the country of origin on their products between September 2013 and July 2015, passing off American tomato products as Canadian with labels that read “Product of Canada.”

Thomas was also charged personally with lying to a federal food inspector on Jan. 8, 2015, about canned tomato paste sold under the brand Tree of Life.

The company’s website, which is no longer accessible, previously stated that Thomas Canning charged a 20 per cent premium for organic products.

Thomas Canning received a $3-million grant from the province in 2014 to build a new fruit and vegetable processing facility. The plant was never built.

Farmers planted additional crops, signing contracts with Thomas Canning to supply tomatoes to the new plant. Those additional tomatoes rotted in the field.

Before the company went into receivership earlier this year, nine farmers were suing Thomas Canning for $2.85 million for reneging on contracts to grow tomatoes in 2016.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has said it’s fine with the way Thomas Canning used the money. The ministry said the money was used to create and retain jobs, rebrand its Utopia products and open up markets in Nigeria and China.

After receiving the $3 million, Thomas Canning went bankrupt. That process is still winding its way through court.

24 sick: Babylon Pizza and Shawarma staff ‘concerned’ by cases of Salmonella

Jennifer O’Brien of The London Free Press (the Ontario, Canada, one) reports the area’s public health watchdog couldn’t pinpoint what caused a salmonella outbreak at a south London eatery, but an official says staff there have shown “knowledge of good food safety practices” and he’s confident “things will be good going forward.”

babylon-pizza-and-shawarmaOwners of Babylon Pizza and Shawarma were “very co-operative, very good to work with and very concerned” when they learned two dozen customers had been infected with salmonella last month, Dave Pavletic, the Middlesex-London health unit’s food safety manager, said Wednesday.

“After our consultations and followup visits, (the owners) really demonstrated knowledge of good food safety practices,” he said. “They’ve achieved what we wanted.”

Pavletic said inspectors couldn’t determine exactly what made 24 Babylon patrons sick in August — a month that saw an unusual spike in salmonella reports even without those cases — but there have been no reports of salmonella linked to the restaurant since Aug. 25.

While two eatery staffers hold food handling certificates, he said, it’s not unheard of for health officials to learn of occasional infractions at restaurants. “From time to time, infractions occur.”

The health unit received 37 reports of salmonella — including the 24 linked to Babylon — in three weeks last month. That compares to the August average of nine reports.

So far this month, the health unit has received nine more salmonella reports.

At the same time, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports that Bulk Barrel is recalling No Sugar Added Almond Butter Crunch from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

The following product was sold in bulk from Bulk Barrel, 301 Oxford Street W, Unit 76C, London, Ontario, from September 2 to 7, 2016 inclusive.

Recalled products

Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC

None//No Sugar Added Almond Butter Crunch//Variable//None//None

This recall was triggered by a recall in another country. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.


There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Going public: London, Ontario (that’s in Canada) version after Salmonella spike

Rather than waiting until all the facts were in and all the linkages solid, the Middlesex-London Health Unit on Friday decided to do something which has now become radical: it shared what they knew about a spike in Salmonella illnesses, said what they were doing to find out more, and implied that when they  find out more, you’ll hear it from health-types first.

risks.aheadGood job.

Jennifer O’Brien of the London Free-Press reports that 14 reported cases of Salmonella in a week — compared to a monthly August average of nine — has mystified health inspectors who couldn’t find a “common thread” among those affected.

Stephen Turner, director of environmental health and infectious diseases said, “We look for relationships — common restaurants, grocery stores, a common workplace . . . whether they’ve purchased a common product. We haven’t found that. That is why it’s raised our eyebrows so we are investigating diligently.”

The next step for the health unit is to contact each infected person and find out information that might explain how they became infected, he said.

The 14 people who were infected between Aug. 18 and Friday included males and females who range in age and live in various neighbourhoods across London.

They all reported typical symptoms associated with salmonella — diarrhea, vomiting and fever, said Turner, adding the health unit would like anyone experiencing such symptoms to report them.

Food fraud: Canadian greenhouse edition

Ann Hui of the Globe and Mail reports that a few years ago, federal food inspectors were walking around the warehouses of the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto – the nerve centre where much of the province’s fresh produce is bought, re-packaged and sold – when they noticed something unusual.

emersonIn the “farmer’s market” area, where only Ontario-grown produce is meant to be sold, the inspectors saw large cartons of greenhouse peppers with conflicting labels. The outside of the boxes had “Product of Canada” stickers, next to visible signs of damage on the cardboard – bits of paper and glue, as if another sticker had been peeled off. And stickers on the inside of the box read “Product of Mexico.”

That discovery in January, 2012, led the Canadian Food Inspection Agency into a three-year investigation of the company behind the peppers, Mucci Farms – the largest such probe in the agency’s history.

After executing three search warrants at the company’s headquarters in Kingsville, Ont., and poring over its computer records and internal e-mails, CFIA investigators pieced together evidence that, between late 2011 and early 2013, Mucci had been selling imported products as Canadian – putting hundreds of shipments of mislabelled produce worth more than $1.4-million onto Ontario grocery store shelves.

In one e-mail described in a court document and obtained by The Globe and Mail, one of the company’s directors, Danny Mucci, responded to a message from an employee about a shortage of Canadian mini cucumbers by telling the worker: “you know what to do to fill…it’s only 30 cases.”

Mucci International Marketing Inc., Mucci Pac Ltd. and two of its directors (Mr. Mucci and Joseph Spano) pleaded guilty in June of this year to eight regulatory offences – including one count against the company for selling food in a “false, misleading or deceptive” manner – and were fined $1.5-million.

Mucci’s lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, said in an interview that the mislabelling was not intentional, and that, given the volume of Mucci’s 1,200-employee operation, the transactions made up “a very small part of what they do.” He also emphasized that they pleaded guilty to regulatory offences, not criminal ones. Criminal charges against Mucci International and Mucci Pac and the two directors of defrauding the public, and defrauding Costco, Loblaw and Sobeys – to whom Mucci sold the produce – were withdrawn.

The case sent shockwaves through the country’s agriculture industry, and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers called it a “unique” precedent. “My hope is that it’s an isolated case,” the marketing board’s manager, Rick Seguin, said in an interview.

If the best you can do is hope, then OGVG is in for trouble.

I helped – or did – set up the OGVG on-farm food safety program way back when OFFS wasn’t cool – about 1998.

We got a couple of papers out of it, along with reams of anectodes and observations and every time I’ve blogged about them, the new types at OGVG have threatened to sue (that’s a pic, upper left, of my 14-monty-old grandon #2, Emerson, instead of tomatoes; sue that).

I’m used to that.

And since I’m just a lowly former academic, the legal types tell me, you can’t afford it.

So I’ll let CFIA and the Globe run with it.

powell_greenhouseI had nothing to do with it.

Can only sit back and sigh.

For years, experts have been sounding the alarm on mislabelling and food fraud. Increasingly, they say, criminal organizations around the world are targeting the food system, intercepting supply chains and deliberately misrepresenting or adulterating products – and costing the food industry between $10-billion and $15-billion (U.S.) each year, according to the U.S.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association.

And, according to conversations with experts in the Canadian food industry, scientists and regulators, the problem is widespread within our own borders.

But even the CFIA does not seem to know just how widespread it is. Individual cases provide an incomplete picture. And the 74 cases of non-compliance with labelling laws from the past year published on the CFIA website – a number the agency say has held steady over the past five years – present only a portion of incidents where the agency has found companies breaking the rules. It includes only the cases in which the products were actually seized and detained or disposed of, but also includes technical infractions, like language or font size on packaging.

When asked how prevalent the problem is in Canada, the agency cited U.S. data that show fraud affects about 10 per cent of all food products globally. It also acknowledged it has not yet conducted a widespread survey of its own to understand its full impact within Canada.

In his years as a lawyer representing companies in intellectual property and anti-counterfeiting cases in Canada, Lorne Lipkus has seen cases of food fraud ranging from counterfeit basmati rice (knockoffs of a high-end brand) to fake ginseng.

“You’d think: ‘How expensive is it to grow a bag of rice,’” he said. “But if someone’s making something and making a profit out of it, somebody’s counterfeiting it. … Everything we do in Canada is reactive. We have very poor laws, compared to other countries. And we haven’t had any government involved in the longest time – I’m talking decades – willing to provide the resources to law enforcement to do anything about counterfeiting.”

In EU countries, border officials have the authority to seize and destroy goods they believe are counterfeit. In Canada, customs officials can detain a product, but it is then incumbent on the complainant to undertake court action and to pay for the goods to remain in detention until the case is heard – which can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Most alarming, he said, is that the scope of the problem is not understood because no agency is specifically looking for fraud.

On the issue of mislabelling, experts also point to policy initiatives abroad – such as a U.S. proposal to require companies to have food fraud prevention programs – as evidence others seem to take the issue more seriously.

Although the CFIA has not conducted a full survey of the issue in Canada, James Crawford, acting associate vice-president of operations with the federal agency, said CFIA receives about 40 complaints a year about possible food misrepresentation.

In an interview, Mr. Crawford said the agency takes food fraud seriously. He also said Canadians are generally safe from adulterated food – pointing to a Conference Board of Canada study in 2014 that ranked the country’s food system as the safest of 17 OECD countries surveyed.


That was a bullshit survey with criteria based on nothing.

On fraud, he said, “we’re proactive and reactive.”

He said CFIA staff conduct regular inspections of imported and domestic food – including daily inspections at meat processing plants. Still, he was not able to say what percentage of products undergoes such scrutiny for labelling.

“We can’t inspect every … import or domestically produced food in Canada. It’s impossible. That’s why we have a risk-based plan. And it allows us to focus on where we think the high risks are.” Some of the things the agency takes into account in prioritizing inspections include food type and likelihood for illness, and each company’s track record of compliance.

Even countries with the most aggressive approaches faced the reality that food fraud is not easily confined by borders.

In Canada, much of the action on the issue has been industry-led. Large retailers in Canada like Loblaw or Costco have programs to safeguard against adulterations, requiring suppliers to subscribe to standardized food safety programs, and undergo annual audits.


Audits and inspections are largely shit.

As for Mucci, it is on a three-year probation during which CFIA inspectors will have free access to its premises and computer records. Mr. Ducharme says the company is doing everything it can to ensure accuracy of its labelling, including appointing a compliance officer and reviewing all of its processes.

He believes the CFIA targeted Mucci in part to set an example. “I don’t think it’s insignificant that the place that was targeted for the big investigation was the biggest in the industry,” he said. “They know Mucci’s the biggest. The best.”