Food Safety Matters!
Food-borne illnesses are preventable. Food safety is a real concern not only here in the North but throughout BC, across the country, and indeed, around the world. Although there has been no single event to trigger a specific food safety program in Northern BC, periodic outbreaks virtually everywhere (including many rural Northern towns) are proof that surveillance of food sources is a growing issue for us all.
Public health officials know of examples in the North, throughout BC, across Canada, and around the world. These could be caused by anything from a food handler with an infectious disease spreading it by accident, to some cooks mistakenly using bacteria-laden juices to add flavor to a roast beef dinner.
Health Canada estimates that there are 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada every year. But public health experts also estimate that only about one in five people seek medical attention when they suspect they’re suffering from such an illness, and of those only a small percentage have samples collected to confirm the presence of an enteric pathogen.
When community food events are open to everyone, we are all held to a higher standard and therefore, food permits may be required. In most cases, only a few such events take place each year, and a Temporary Permit for each event would be provided at no cost to your organization.
The permitting process enables an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to meet with event organizers, review food handling procedures and requirements, and provide information and assistance as needed. We know that your selected chefs are conscientious and committed to doing their best, but cooking for a large function is very different from cooking for a family.
Holiday Food Safety Tips
While everybody is enjoying themselves in the company of family and friends, we should all keep food safety in mind. Here are some useful information pages for holiday food safety.
Raw Milk - Not Safe to Drink
Raw milk is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine, and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. Heat treatment of milk (pasteurization) kills most bacteria in milk.
Several studies and tests confirm that raw milk can contain a number of disease causing organisms. The “big four” include Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter. Many of these organisms can cause severe illnesses that, in some cases, may have permanent effects. In severe cases, illness resulting from these four organisms can even cause death. People with compromised or undeveloped immune systems such as the elderly, people with certain chronic diseases, pregnant women, and young children are particularly vulnerable.
Please visit the BC Centre for Disease Control from more information.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides valuable information for Canadians about food safety issues, including a food recall subscription service. Visitors to their site can subscribe to the CFIA automatic food recall update service where they will receive food recalls and allergy alerts directly via e-mail the moment they are issued.
What if I think I have a Food Borne Illness?
If you suspect you have a food borne illness, you should visit your doctor and describe your symptoms. To verify your illness, you will be asked to give a stool sample which will be sent for laboratory confirmation. Confirmation is necessary to determine the source or cause and provide information on limiting further spread. If you are suffering from a food borne illness, you will be contacted by an Environmental Health Officer for follow-up.
Health Canada estimates that there are 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada every year. However, public health experts also estimate that only about one in five people seek medical attention when they suspect they’re suffering from such an illness, and of those only a small percentage have samples collected to confirm the presence of an enteric pathogen.