New Import Requirement: E. Coli Testing For Some California Romaine -CFIA

Effective October 7, 2020, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will introduce a new temporary sampling and testing requirement for some California romaine lettuce prior to import into Canada.

The CFIA will require importers to either provide proof that romaine lettuce does not originate from counties in the Salinas Valley, or provide an official certificate of analysis from an accredited laboratory confirming that the lettuce has below-detectable levels of E. coli.

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), importers need to ensure that the food they import is safe to consume and meets Canadian requirements. In most cases, importers require a Safe Food for Canadians licence to import food into Canada, including romaine lettuce and other fresh fruits or vegetables.

From 2016 to 2019, romaine lettuce from California was linked to outbreaks of E. coli illnesses in the USA and Canada. Food safety investigations by Canadian and US authorities identified the Salinas Valley growing region as a recurring source of outbreaks.

The testing program adds an extra layer of controls to the food safety measures in place under the SFCR, which include a regular monitoring program for E. coli O157:H7 in fresh vegetables.

To mitigate risk in the event of another outbreak this fall, the CFIA is implementing these temporary import measures aimed at preventing contaminated food from entering the marketplace.

CFIA is working closely and collaboratively with the US Food and Drug Administration to identify and respond to any potential outbreaks, and continues to put in place effective preventive controls.

These new temporary measures apply to romaine lettuce as well as mixed salads containing romaine, and will be required from October 7 to December 31, 2020. The sampling requirement comprises 60 units of 25 grams for each truckload or partial truckload of romaine lettuce or product containing romaine lettuce.

Romaine from Salinas must be tested in a laboratory accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA) or another accreditation body that is a signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA).

For more information, read the CFIA’s guidance Import requirements for romaine lettuce from the United States.