E Coli :: Canada defined import requirements for leafy green vegetables from U.S. and California

Californian leafy greens have been associated with several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses over the past ten years.

In September 2006, a large multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses associated with contaminated fresh Californian baby spinach resulted in 205 confirmed cases, including one confirmed illness in Canada, and three deaths in the US.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) undertook immediate activities in Canada in response to the spinach outbreak including verifying the effective recall of product that had been distributed in the country, and establishing import alerts.

Since October 2006, CFIA officials met with the US officials to gain information on the findings of investigations into the spinach and other outbreaks relating to leafy greens grown in California and on measures taken to address the food safety risks associated with these products.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in consultation with the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture, other California officials and the Western Growers Association, developed the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (Handler Marketing Agreement) which requires signatory handlers of leafy greens grown in California to get their supply from growers that apply the Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens (Leafy Green GAPs).

The Leafy Green GAPs were developed by the Western Growers Association, in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Health Services, and have been peer reviewed by academia. It incorporates best practices to address the risk factors associated with leafy greens.

Upon review of the Leafy Green GAPs, the CFIA determined that hazards have been appropriately identified and addressed. The CFIA will limit entry of products into Canada to those handled by shippers that have signed the Handler Marketing Agreement.

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