Safe, good quality food options are something most Canadians don’t have to think about very often. That’s because there are regulations and safety systems throughout the Canadian food system, and ultimately, safe food starts on the farm, with farmers.
Food safety rules for farms
Just as with other food businesses, farmers follow the rules of food safety programs based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) that identify critical points on the farm where food safety could be at risk. That could occur when new animals come onto the farm, or when fresh produce is sorted and packed into bins, for example. Although every farm has a slightly different on-farm food safety program to follow, depending on what they grow or raise, each program includes:
- Evaluating what you’re doing and how you’re doing it;
- Keeping detailed records;
- Completing regular audits;
- Knowing what to do if things go wrong
Others in the food supply chain, from livestock feed manufacturers to processing facilities and
grocery stores, follow similar rules.
Being able to assure Canadians and consumers in other countries that the food we produce is safe, is important. A big part of that assurance is “traceability”, which means having checks and balances in place to assure customers that they’re actually getting what they think they are getting — and that we can trace a product right back to its origin.
For example, Grain Discovery, an Ontario-based start-up, recently introduced the first “plant to pint” commercial traceability system. From the barley field to the beer glass, every input, movement, process, and touchpoint by farmers, maltsters, brewers, and others, is electronically tracked, creating a digital passport for the product.
RFID (radio-frequency identification) ear tags for livestock, and a national database of animal movement, mean that we know where animals are and where they’ve been, right back to the farm on which they were born. This information is critical to have in case of a disease outbreak or food safety issue.