News Local

Expert predicts B.C. food safety will ‘slip’

Reporter Stefania Seccia

By Stefania Seccia, 24 hours

Leafy greens can also cause foodborne illnesses.
File photo

Leafy greens can also cause foodborne illnesses. File photo

While most B.C.-based food processors are scrambling to meet new safety regulations coming into effect soon, one expert doubts most will meet the deadlines due to a lack of planning.

B.C.’s Public Health Act’s food premises regulation was amended in 2013 to require written food safety and sanitation plans from processors. The plans are a set of procedures to help prevent or reduce safety hazards, which can cause food poisoning.

The new rules will be enforced by March 2016, but out of the 5,500 food processors across B.C., about 4,900 of them are going to need to improve their food safety plans.

Steve Burton, software architect with the Richmond-based tech startup ICICLE, has toured many facilities in B.C. and believes that implementation, which has faced a two-year delay, will most likely face more because of the number of processors still catching up.

“The thing most consumers do is when they walk into a supermarket they make the assumption the products on the shelves are safe,” he said. “When you walk into a store you can easily identify what’s GMO, vegan, gluten-free, but there’s no way of knowing that the product purchased is from a company that takes food safety seriously.”

Burton said most processors who supply products to retailers have no food safety program in place, or it is limited.

“It’s going to take a long time,” he said. “My prediction is it’s going to slip again, it’s already slipped for two years, there’s no way they’re going to be able to enforce it.”

Another thing for consumers to note — facing a one-in-eight chance of getting food poisoning this year as B.C. averages 550,000 cases annually — is one of the top most dangerous foods is leafy greens, followed by potatoes, ice cream, or cheese, Burton notes.