Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Food Safety Inspection Program
(section 3.06, 2019 annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario)
1st Session, 42nd Parliament
70 Elizabeth II
The Honourable Ted Arnott, MPP
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
Your Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to present its Report and commends it to the House.
Catherine Fife, MPP
Chair of the Committee
Standing committee on public accounts
1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Deepak Anand stephen crawford
Jill Andrew Christine hogarth
Toby Barrett *daryl kramp
*Stephen Blais Michael Parsa
*norman miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka) was replaced by daryl kramp on September 22, 2020.
*JOHN FRASER was replaced by STEPHEN BLAIS on October 1, 2020.
john vanthof regularly served as substitute members of the Committee.
Clerk of the Committee
· The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is generally responsible for meat, produce, fish and dairy that is produced, processed, and consumed only in Ontario.
· The Ontario Ministry of Health and municipalities fund 34 local Public Health Units across the province (35 at the time of the audit). Food safety programs are delivered through the local Public Health Units, each governed by its own board of health, and responsible for meeting obligations set out under the Ontario Public Health Standards (made by the Ministry of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act).
· Public Health Ontario (a Crown Agency) conducts regional surveillance of foodborne illness; conducts scientific research; and provides technical advice and support to Public Health Units and the Ministry of Health.
· The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspects food imported into Ontario from other provinces/territories or countries, or produced in Ontario for export outside the province, and regulates any food that is labelled organic.
· The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency tests, analyzes, registers and approves all pesticides in Canada.
· The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 gives authority to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to establish food safety standards with respect to
· The Fish Inspection Act regulates standards for fish processing and the sale of fish that is processed and consumed within Ontario.
· The Milk Act outlines the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ role with respect to the inspection and testing of raw milk from cows and goats, as well as the licensing and inspection of dairy plants.
· The Health Protection and Promotion Act requires Public Health Units to (among other things) inspect food premises for the purpose of preventing, eliminating and decreasing the effects of health hazards. Examples of food premises are restaurants, food courts, grocery stores, butcher shops, banquet halls, catering facilities, and mobile food premises such as food trucks.
· The federal Food and Drugs Act and Regulations establish standards for the safety and nutritional quality of all foods sold in Canada.
· The federal Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations generally apply to food that crosses provincial borders but some of the provisions for food labelling, advertising, and grading also apply to foods produced, processed, and sold within the province.
· The Regulations under the Safe Food for Canadians Act set out the Canadian Organic Regime certification system. Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, organic food products must be certified according to the Canadian Organic Standards if they
2019 Audit Objective and Scope
· ensure licensing, inspection and sampling programs are delivered economically and efficiently in accordance with applicable legislation, regulations, agreements and policies such that food-safety risks for commodities farmed, processed and marketed within Ontario are managed to protect the health of Ontarians; and
· measure and publicly report periodically on the results and effectiveness of food-safety programs and services.
· inspect food premises and conduct foodborne-illness surveillance and outbreak management economically and efficiently to prevent the effects of foodborne illnesses, in accordance with applicable legislation, regulations, agreements and policies; and
· measure and publicly report periodically on the results and effectiveness of food premises inspection programs.
Main Points of 2019 Audit
· 98% 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.
· Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008 lists 131 pesticides that cannot be used for general groundskeeping. Between 2014 and 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs sample-tested about 1,200 Ontario-grown produce items and found residues of 14 banned pesticides in excess of Health Canada’s allowable maximum levels a total of 76 times.
· The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs inventory of farmers did not contain complete information on production volumes, types of crops grown, and where the produce was sold. Such data would be useful to determine a risk-based food-sample-testing plan.
· Current provincial legislation provides limited enforcement tools to compel Ontario fish processors (that process fish for Ontario consumption only) to address food-safety infractions, resulting in repeat offences.
· The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs does not inspect fish farms. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects only licensed fish farms that produce, process, treat, preserve, grade, package or label fish and seafood for export outside the province.
· The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs did not receive adequate information to provide sufficient oversight of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), which is responsible for inspecting dairy cow farms and testing of raw cow milk.
· Public Health Units did not investigate complaints of foodborne illnesses on a timely basis.
· Some food premises were never inspected until Public Health Units received complaints from the public.
· Different inspection-grading systems for food premises among Public Health Units provided inconsistent information to the public across Ontario.
· The Ministry of Health’s 2019 Ontario Food Safety Protocol requires Public Health Units to establish and implement procedures to monitor or inspect temporary food premises such as those at food festivals. However, there are no minimum provincial requirements for the frequency of inspections of temporary food premises as there are for fixed food premises, such as restaurants. About 12% of special events within the jurisdictions of all five Public Health Units visited by the audit team were inspected in 2018, and only about 15% in 2017.
· Businesses operating solely within Ontario can market their products as “organic” even if they are not certified to the Canadian Organic Standards.
· Sheep milk, water-buffalo milk and non-chicken eggs are not subject to mandatory regulation or inspection for quality assurance.
Issues Raised in the Audit and Before the Committee
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Meat
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Fruits and Vegetables
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Fish and Seafood
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Dairy
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Eggs
Inspections of Food Producers and Processors: Organic Foods
Federal Labelling Requirements not Enforced in Provincial Food-Processing Plants
Lack of Public Disclosure of Ministry of Agriculture Inspection Results
Public Health Units’ Inspection and Enforcement Practices for Food Premises
Tracking and Monitoring of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Consolidated List of Committee Recommendations