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Archived - Over 99.9% of fresh leafy green vegetables tested had no detectable pathogens

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CFIA tests over 4,000 samples

April 11, 2014 – Ottawa, ON - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

As part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) routine testing of various food products, a survey released today found that more than 99.9 per cent of leafy green vegetable samples had no detectable levels of bacterial pathogens and were safe to consume.

As part of a five-year microbiological plan that began in 2008/2009, the CFIA analyzed a total of 4,250 domestic and imported, whole and fresh-cut fresh leafy vegetable samples available in the Canadian market for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O157:NM and generic E. coli. The fresh-cut samples were also tested for Listeria monocytogenes.

The 2009/2010 study deemed 12 samples to be "unsatisfactory" due to the presence of Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and/or high levels of generic E. coli. None of the samples were found to be positive for E. coli O157:H7 or E. coli O157:NM.

All unsatisfactory samples were subject to food safety investigations and further directed sampling. As a result of this survey, two products were recalled. No illnesses were associated with consumption of any of the products.

The overall finding of this survey suggests that the vast majority of leafy green vegetables in the Canadian market are produced and handled under good agricultural and manufacturing practices. However, vegetable contamination with E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella could sporadically occur. Consumers should follow these safety tips when choosing to purchase and consume leafy green vegetables at Healthy Canadians.

Quick Facts

  • Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7 and E. coli NM are bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Fresh produce can occasionally become contaminated with these harmful bacteria at various stages of their production. Generic E. coli are harmless bacteria found in human and animal intestines. Its presence in food is often used as an indicator of faecal contamination, which can suggest inadequate agricultural and/or sanitation practices along the food production chain.
  • In recent years, leafy green vegetables have been reported to be responsible for a number of global outbreaks of foodborne illness. Based on this and other factors, the CFIA has identified leafy green vegetables as one of the priority commodity groups of fresh fruits and vegetables for enhanced surveillance.
  • During the five-year plan, over 10,000 leafy vegetable samples have been collected and tested for the presence of pathogens of concern in leafy vegetables available to Canadians at retail. Further results will be released as lab tests are analyzed.

Related Products

2009-2010 Bacterial Pathogens and Generic E. coli in Fresh Leafy Green Vegetables

Associated Links

Chemical Residues / Microbiology Targeted Surveys

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Michael Bolkenius
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Health

Media Relations
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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