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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sakura - Cherry Blossoms Tour In Toronto 2017

Sakura () Cherry blossoms tour in Toronto's High Park 
Jim Chan
(Updated: April 26, 2017)

Such a nice day to welcome spring’s arrival with a tour to Toronto High Park and be part of the Japanese tradition of Hanami - cherry blossom flower viewing. This is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry tree, also known as Sakura cherry tree.  The first Japanese Sakura cherry tree was planted in Toronto 1959 and it was a present from the citizens of Tokyo Japan. In 2001, an additional 34 Cherry Blossom trees were donated to High Park by the Skaura project - History of the Skaura in Toronto, and the trees have been a popular attraction to the the park ever since.

In Toronto, cherry blossoms typically bloom in late April or early May, the flowering of the cherry trees is spectacular, but peak bloom only lasts about a week depending on the weather conditions in City of Toronto. According to High Park Nature Centre, the peak bloom is expected to start this week.

Last year, many of the buds were damaged by cold weather and frost that followed an early April ice storm in the Toronto area, resulting in a disappointed year for Sakura tour. Flowering cherry blossoms will not bloom if they are affected by freezing temperatures in their early budding stage. 
(Photo taken May 2016 in Toronto High Park)

Other blooms in the park

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Food Irradiation in Canada

Food Irradiation - Can Ionizing Radiation Technique Improve Food Quality and Safety?

Iain Chan PhD Physics , Jim Chan (Certified Public Health Inspector, Canada)

The Canadian government has recently authorized the use of ionizing radiation as a technique to extend the shelf life of raw ground beef and to reduce the number of microbes
such as bacteria, molds, parasites in raw ground beef. Like milk pasteurization and food canning, irradiation, according to the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) , is another method that can make food safer for the consumer and can enhances food quality and promoting less food waste. Ionizing radiation was previously regulated in Canada for use in the prevention of potatoes and onions from sprouting in storage, to kill insect infestations in wheat and flour and to reduce microbe populations in seasonings. United States has permitted the irradiation of fresh and frozen ground beef since 1999 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated the safety of irradiated food for over 30 years and found the process to be safe. A variety of food approved by FDA for irradiation process including beef and pork, crustaceans, fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, shell eggs, shellfish, spices and seasonings.

How is food irradiated and does irradiation make foods radioactive?
The term radiation can be intimidating to some people, but is different than something that is radioactive. While a radioactive source is used in some techniques, food products do not come into contact with radioactive material and do not become radioactive after processing.

In order to kill microbes, the food product is bombarded with ionizing radiation which knocks an electron out of an atomic or molecular orbit producing charged particles (ions) referred to as free radicals. These radicals damage the DNA of microbes so that they cannot reproduce. As a result, the growth rate of microbes is inhibited so that they are less effective at spoilage/causing illness.

How is food irradiation regulated?
In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the enforcement of regulations relating to irradiated food products under the Food and Drugs Act and regulations state the maximum dose of ionizing radiation that can be applied to food and the foods that may be irradiated and sold in Canada.

How does food irradiation work?
The standard measurement unit for a dose of radiation is called a Gray (Gy), and is the amount of absorbed energy per kilogram of mass. One Gray is equal to 1 Joule (J) of energy per kilogram (kg) of mass. For fresh raw ground beef the maximum dose is 4.5 kGy which is equal to 4500 Joules/kg. For fresh frozen ground beef the maximum dose is 7.0 kGy, or 7000 Joules/kg.

There are three types of ionizing radiation that have been approved for use on raw ground beef:

1. Gamma radiation which is a type of high energy electromagnetic radiation produced by the decay of radioactive elements. Gamma radiation has a high penetrating power which has the advantage of treating large quantities of ground beef at once. However, the high penetrating power means that lots of shielding is required in order to ensure that workers are not exposed. Two radioactive sources have been approved for use: Colbalt-60 (60Co) and Cesium-137 (137Cs). Cesium-137 produces gamma ray photons with an energy of 0.662 MeV (0.662 million electron volts) and Colbalt-60 produces two gamma ray photons: one with an energy of 1.17 MeV (1.17 million electron volts) and one with an energy of 1.33 MeV. 

2. X-ray radiation which is also a type of high energy electromagnetic radiation, but unlike gamma radiation can be produced using non-radioactive sources. X-ray radiation is produced by bombarding a metal target (such as gold) with a beam of electrons. When electrons hit the metal target they loose energy due to their rapid deceleration, and this energy is released as x-ray radiation. The maximum energy of the x-ray photons is equal to the energy of the electron beam, which regulations limit to 7.5 MeV for gold or tantalum metal targets and 5.0 MeV for other metal targets. X-ray radiation has a high penetrating power, so large quantities of ground beef can be irradiated at once. 

3. Electron beam radiation Beam of high energy electrons produced by heating an electron source (a cathode) and applying a high voltage in order to accelerate the released electrons. The maximum energy allowed for the electron beam is set at 10 MeV. While this is a higher energy than gamma or x-ray radiation, electrons have a much lower penetrating power and are suited for treating thin samples of food.

How can consumers be able to tell what food has been irradiated?
The labelling regulations as outlined in the FDR  specified that label on product package or display sign of bulk irradiated food must clearly identify and reveal the food has been irradiated with both a written statement includes words such as irradiated, treated with radiation or treated by irradiation and the international symbol. 

What food safety messages consumers need to remember about irradiated food such as ground beef?
Irradiated raw ground beef does not guarantee zero risk as the process greatly reduces microbes, including pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and parasites which can cause food borne diseases, to enhance food quality by extending product shelf-life and creating less food waste. However, irradiated raw ground beef can sill contain pathogen and consumer can be infected by handling raw ground beef without washing hands afterwards and by eating undercooked ground beef. Consumer must remember to handle, store and process food properly, cook ground beef to a safe internal temperature (CFIA)  and always apply the rules of safe food handling to prevent foodborne diseases. 

  1. M. Rocelle S. Clavero, J. David Monk, Larry R. Beuchat, Michael P. Doyle and Robert E. Brackett, Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonellae and Campylobacter jejuni in Raw Ground Beef by Gamma Irradiation; Applied and Evironmental Microbiology, Vol. 50 No. 6, page 2069, June 1994
  2. Frances Elizabeth DeRuiter and Johanna Dwyer, Consumer acceptance of irradiated foods: dawn of a new era?; Food Service Technology, Vol 2, page 47, June 2002
  3. Government of Canada Website:
  4. World Health Organization Report:
Media links

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Illegal meat investigation - conservation vs illegal bush meat trade

Monkeys on the menu… conservationists on alert (Reprint: Macleans)

If you know where to go in Toronto, you can shop for the most exotic of African bush meat: rodents from the forests of West and Central Africa, bats, even cuts of gorilla meat, an endangered primate. “It’s like a mini farmers’ market with tables set out,” said Justin Brashares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley, describing the makeshift markets he has visited in Toronto that are specifically set up to sell bush meat. “Animals are in boxes, some things in coolers beside the table. They sell it often in precut quantities,” he said. Small mammals such as bats, as well as fish from the continent, are the most common offerings but Brashares said that as much as 30 per cent of the meat sold can be primate. A vendor sitting at an empty table is a sign that there is more expensive primate meat for sale.

For the past 10 years, Brashares has been running an international study on the bush-meat trade, for which he has monitored the species of wild animals from West and Central Africa sold each month at dozens of underground markets in 40 cities across Europe and North America, including Toronto and Montreal. At every market, at least two locals record what is for sale, along with the quantity available, and send the information to Brashares, who plans to publish the findings. He has an ecologist’s interest in bush meat that grew out of his doctoral research in Ghana, where hunters kept killing a species of antelope he was studying. By examining the global bush-meat trade, he hopes to gain insight into why humans use wildlife the way we do—and the consequences.

The study is international in scope because what was once a staple food for a local population in West and Central Africa has become a globally traded commodity, just like quinoa or chocolate. This one just happens to be illegal in most countries in the world. According to the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, the global bush-meat trade is estimated to be at least $1 billion annually.  While most wild animals smuggled into the West from all over the planet—not only Africa—are destined for the pet market, a significant number are headed for dinner plates. It is estimated that 25 million kg of bush meat arrives in the United States each year.

“We know a lot comes in through personal luggage,” said Brashares. In October last year, several hundred kilos of African bush meat including monkey and pangolin, an animal that resembles an anteater, were found in passenger bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport, reportedly destined for a Paris market. The contraband also arrives through the postal system and in cargo shipments. Brashares learned of a seizure of 10,000 primate parts at a land border crossing between Canada and the U.S. “They were drawn to the issue [because] the boxes were saturated in blood,” he said.

Globally the bush-meat trade is a growing concern, both for its ecological impact and the infectious disease risk is carries. Last month, Canada participated in a conference in Thailand organized to stem the trafficking of wild animals and plants, by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which we are a signatory.

But the Canada Border Services Agency refused to comment on bush-meat smuggling, saying the organization doesn’t keep statistics on the types of meat seized at border points. When they do seize meat that appears to be from a wild animal they call Environment Canada. A spokesperson for Environment Canada said Border Services asks them to investigate thousands of seizures each year. According to their records, two since 2009 were confirmed to be bush meat.

If you’ve ever snuck in cheese from France or homemade sausage from a great aunt back home into your suitcase, it’s easy to understand how enough bush meat makes it into Canada to supply the markets Brashares has been tracking. Just as the nostalgia of that sausage makes an honest person lie on a customs form, bush meat offers a connection to culture and to the past. “Apparently the smoky taste that you get from bush meat is not replicated in any of the meats you get in Canada,” said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto who also is a conservationist and works on bush-meat awareness in Central Africa.

“I miss it because it’s my food,” said Ruth Bom, a Montreal mother who moved here from Cameroon four years ago and hasn’t tasted bush meat since. She grew up in a village eating the animals her father hunted, such as porcupine. “It’s a little bit like beef,” she recalled. “It’s not fatty. Even its skin is good to eat.” Her favourite way to prepare porcupine is in a tomato sauce, served with a side of boiled plantain. Monkey is also good, she said—though “it has a strong flavour and smells a lot when you cook it.” Just as your neighbours know when you are frying fish, the smell of monkey cooking can travel.
While bush meat has long been an important protein source in villages such as Bom’s, it is quickly becoming a luxury food in West and Central Africa, too. As the numbers of people who live in cities rise, the commercial market for bush meat increases. Mining, logging and development projects are pushing humans deeper into the forest where they hunt the wildlife for nourishment as well as for trade, contributing to recent dramatic changes in the ecosystem. “The forests are quiet, they are silent,” said Jane Lawton, CEO of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada.

Her organization is now helping in the search for an alternative protein source for locals, to better the chances of forest conservation. CIDA recently funded their project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate what livestock people could raise instead of relying on hunting. However, according to Bowman, the cloven-hoofed animals humans farm in most parts of the world don’t fare well with pests such as tsetse flies and the humidity of the region, and indigenous wildlife such as grasscutters aren’t too happy in captivity.

But it is the commercial trafficking of the meat that is said to be the biggest threat to biodiversity in this region, where healthy forests benefit all humans on the planet. There have been widespread local species extinctions, and the very existence of our nearest relatives, the great apes, is in danger. In the Republic of the Congo, 295 chimpanzees were killed for their meat in 2003 alone. One scientific paper out of the University of London that tracked what passengers arriving at French airports in 2005 smuggled in their luggage, described some people arriving with only bush meat in their bags. When officials searched 30 passengers on three planes, they found what amounted to flesh from 76 animals.
In Canada, the bush-meat market remains under the radar and hard to find. “It is very difficult to estimate the quantity of something illegal,” said Sheldon Jordan, director general of wildlife enforcement for Environment Canada. 

Public health officials in Toronto, where Brashares has found that bush-meat markets have been held for at least 10 years, have never received a complaint from the public or come across the product in their inspections, said Jim Chan, a public health inspector with the city. That makes the health concern all the more serious. Raw meat can carry emerging infectious disease. Bats have been linked to scary illnesses such as Nipah virus, and the great apes to Ebola and more. Pathogens like monkeypox can be resistant to smoking the meat, and parasites can survive this preservation method too. Worse, said Chan, if a food establishment were to handle bush meat secretly, they could infect other foods through cross-contamination and improper food handling. “That risk is quite high,” he said.
Brashares said some of his sources are participating in his study with the hope that information about bush-meat trafficking might one day lead to legalizing trade in non-endangered species to satiate people’s craving for a taste of home without too much harm to the environment.

Lawton, however, isn’t optimistic that allowing people to import meat from more abundant species will help save the great apes and the biodiversity of the Central African forests. “There will be serious challenges if enforcing only certain species are taken out,” she said. Particularly if there is a lucrative market. “There is tremendous temptation if you are in a forest and see an animal, to kill it.”

Full article:

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Don't leave kids and pets in cars to avoid risk of heat stroke on hot days

Safety Risk of Kids & Pets Left in Hot Cars

Summer is here and the temperatures start rising, so does the risk of heat-related injuries in children and pets left in vehicles. Even when a vehicle is parked in the shade on a hot day, kids, the elderly or pets can suffer heatstroke or even death if left in the car unattended. 

Here are four safety tips to be safe this summer
  1. Never leave children or pets in the car unattended. In just three minutes in the sun, the interior temperatures can heat up very quick, putting anyone, including pets in danger of heatstroke
  2. If driving to destinations where you cannot bring pet inside with you, avoid taking it the
    first place. Leaving a pet alone in a hot car will only put them at serious risk as pet can suffer serious injuries when left in a hot car for only 15 minutes. If need to get food during the trip, try using the drive-thru when possible. If one is available, a drive-thru is a great way to stay in the air-conditioned car with pets. 
  3. Having a busy day? When schedules are crazy and in a hurry, you may forget to double check that your kids or pets are safely out of the car. Always double check the back seats every time when getting out of the car to ensure kids and pets are not locked inside.
  4. Prevent your child from playing in a hot car that is parked in the driveway or garage and make sure they cannot get into the car. Tip: Keep any car keys or remotes in a safe place where kids cannot access them. 
Remember, warm temperatures put kids or pets are at a greater risk of heatstroke when being left in a hot car during summer. On a warm day, temperatures can rapidly rise to dangerous levels. If you see someone or a pet in distress inside a parked car, contact local emergency authority or the police. Even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside a car can soar to 60 C or 140 F in just 15 to 20 minutes. 

Related links:

Prevent heat related incident in hot cars during summer months

Summer safety tips - Heat Safety for kids & pets

Auto Alert Thermometer - Heat Safety

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Emergency Preparedness - Are you ready when an emergency happens now?

Personal Emergency Preparedness - Are You Ready?

by Eugene Kelly

The recent earthquakes in Ecuador and the current wildfires in Alberta, Canada are reminders that emergencies can occur at any time and any place. An emergency can occur instantly or develop slowly. It can last moments or extend for months. In light of this, we should all be taking steps to prepare ourselves and our families for the emergencies that we might face in our communities.

What would you need to do to prepare for a major emergency?

The best way to keep you and your family safe is to be prepared before an emergency happens. Governments and organizations develop plans to save lives and minimize damage. Having our own family emergency plan is a pro-active beginning to helping prepare us and our families to be able to cope with the effects of an emergency.

Get ready now and follow these steps to prepare for an emergency:

1. Get informed - Get the official information from your local government resources that you need during an emergency. Toronto Office of Emergency Management.

                                                                                     Image from Get Emergency Ready (City of Toronto)
2. Emergency plan - Make a plan for you and your family to be prepared for all emergencies. Here are some things to consider when making a plan:

  • Identifying two places for the family to meet.
  1. A location outside your home
  2. A location away from your neighborhood in case you can't return home
  • Review and practice the plan with your family, including your children, including how to contact family members such as children's school or daycare center and other places where they regularly spend time away from home. Example: Designate a contact person outside the area who family members can call if separated.
  • Plan safe routes away from your home to safe areas. Make sure your children are aware of the routes away from home.
  • Develop a plan for family pets as some evacuation shelters may not allow animals
  • Keep current important documents in a safe-deposit box and provide copies to designated contact persons.

3. Emergency kit - Make an emergency kit that can last at least 72 hours after an
emergency. Here are some of the basic supplies you should have on hand.

  • At least three-day supply of bottled water, packaged dried and canned food 
  • First aid kit and essential medicines 
  • Pet food and pet carrier
  • Manual can opener
  • Portable radio and flashlights with spare batteries in waterproof bags
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members
Tips: Simple things like having a non-electric can opener and non-perishable foods on hand, a list of key phone numbers and addresses, an extra set of car keys and keeping your car's gas tank at least half full are all personal emergency preparedness activities that we can easily accomplish.

                                                               Image from Get Emergency Ready (City of Toronto)
4. Be aware -  Pay attention to public warnings and updates from media outlets, news and social media. Warnings will be issued when an emergency is likely to impact you as this can provide you with information on what is happening and to help you in making good decisions to protect yourself and your family.

Pay attention to public warnings 
and updates from media outlets

Protect from extreme heat this summer

North American summers are hot and most summers see heat waves in many parts of the United States and Canada. Heat can be one of the leading weather-related danger resulting in fatalities and heat-related illnesses each year.

What to do during Extreme Heat Alerts in the summer?

Quick Facts

  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and wide-brimmed hats made of breathable fabric. 
  • Plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day or choose indoor locations with air conditioning or outdoor locations with shade (tree-shaded areas can be cooler than a surrounding, non-shaded area). 
  • Take extra breaks if you must do physical activity in extreme heat, remove gear to let body cool off and drinking lots of water. 
  • Take cool baths or showers 
  • Keep home cool by turning off indoor lights; closing awnings, curtains or blinds to block out the sun; use an air conditioner or fan.
  • Never leave people or pets inside parked vehicles as temperatures inside can become extremely dangerous during hot days and reach over 50 degrees Celsius or 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat illness: Symptoms can include dizziness, nausea and headache. If someone you know are experiencing symptoms of heat illness, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids such as Water.
  • Extreme heat can also cause adverse health effects including heat cramps (usually in the legs or abdomen), heat edema (swelling of the hands, feet and ankles), heat exhaustion (characterized by heavy sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fainting) and heat stroke. 
  • Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency with symptoms including dizziness, confusion and an altered mental state. Call local emergency number immediately if you are caring for someone who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.

Related links:

Get Emergency Ready (City of Toronto)

Keep food safe at home

Heat impact on health

About the author

Eugene Kelly - Certified Public Health Inspector (Canada) and the former coordinator of City of Toronto Emergency Plan - Office of Emergency Management. 

Toronto Emergency Plan - Operational Support Function, Emergency Operations Centre

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Food recalls and food poisoning outbreaks

Jim Chan

Reprint: April 05, 2017
Food Recall: Robin Hood Flour linked to E.coli Outbreak

Outbreak due to E. coli contamination

One illness confirmed with consuming the flour and 24 other cases being investigated in Canada.

By Dave Dormer, CBC News Posted: Apr 04, 2017 6:36 PM MT Last Updated: Apr 05, 2017 11:31 AM MT
The recall of Robin Hood brand flour linked to an E. coli outbreak has been expanded to the entire country.
The original recall issued last month by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on 10-kilogram bags of flour was limited to B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
One illness has been confirmed from consuming the flour, and 24 other cases are being investigated.
The recall was triggered during an investigation into an outbreak of E. coli O121 that found 25 cases with a matching genetic fingerprint in four provinces — 12 in B.C., four in Alberta, four in Saskatchewan and five in Newfoundland and Labrador.
​Several of those who fell ill reported having contact with Robin Hood flour.
The illness onset dates ranged from November 2016 to late February. Six people were hospitalized but are recovering.
Food inspection agency officials say any 10-kilogram bags of Robin Hood brand all-purpose flour with a best-before date of April 17, 2018 and the production code 6 291 548 should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.
The recalled product's UPC is 0 59000 01652 8.
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.
Food Recalls

Food recalls do not happen every day, but as public health inspectors we learn from every time we have this kind of experience. The following are some examples of food recalled due to food poisoning outbreaks:

Case 1
Processed meat products contaminated with Listeria caused an outbreak in Richmond, Canada. Public health inspectorcollected samples of food and environmental samples from the kitchen for lab examination and Listeria was found in the processed, ready-to-eat pork and beef. Health authority confirmed at least six people have been hospitalized with signs of infection due to Listeria and one of the six died.

Case 2
Deli meat recalled due to Listeria contamination and 45 people dead with 120 total confirmed cases in Canada.

Case 3
Raw bean sprouts recalled due to Salmonella contamination. Over 500 people ill in Ontario Canada.

Case 4

Norovirus outbreak from B.C. oysters makes dozens sick.

Vancouver oyster bar owner expects his business to take a hit, as health 

officials issue warning

By Rafferty Baker, CBC News Posted: Jan 13, 2017 9:40 AM PT Last Updated: Jan 13, 2017 2:20 PM PT

More than 70 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness since early December have been linked to eating raw or lightly-cooked oysters in many parts of the province, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Full article: CBC Canada British Ccolumbia - Oysters-lead-to-dozens-of-cases-of-illness-bccdc-1.3934469

Anatomy of a food recall: The tainted carrot juice case and a Botulism food poisoning outbreak in Toronto, Canada

TORONTO - It was 4:15 p.m. on a warm Friday last October and the beginning of Thanksgiving Day weekend when Jim Chan got the call that would throw the public health department where he works into a state of emergency.

TORONTO - It was 4:15 p.m. on a warm Friday last October and the beginning of Thanksgiving Day weekend when Jim Chan got the call that would throw the public health department where he works into a state of emergency.

The case of two Canadians who were extremely sick in a Toronto hospital and recent reports from the United States that a brand of carrot juice tested positive for botulism were not separate events. The Canadian victims became severely ill after drinking the same California-produced tainted carrot juice that had already made several people sick in the U.S. "The health unit investigated their cases and realized that, 'whoa, this is not a regular recall. This is a recall with illness -- in Canada,' " said Chan, the manager of the food safety program at Toronto Public Health.

Despite the fact a warning about the possibility of botulism in carrot juice had been issued by the Canadian government a week earlier, the product recall was only voluntary. Chan knew there was a good chance the tainted carrot juice was still on sale throughout stores in Canada. He was right. Toronto public health inspectors began scouring the marketplace and found at least 12 stores that were still selling the carrot juice that had been linked to botulism. "It was terrible," Chan said, "because it involved cases where people became very ill, the stress level is quite high. We're talking about product that may contain a toxin and it's still out there on the shelves."

The tainted carrot juice scare is just one of several major food safety nightmares in the past year that have killed, hospitalized or sickened hundreds of people and pets in North America. During food recalls, Chan and his team of public health inspectors become the front-line protectors of public health responsible for removing any rogue products from the marketplace in the hopes of preventing any outbreak of illness. But the size and scope of the food industry means it's often very difficult for officials to be sure potentially dangerous products are quickly removed from store shelves. Food recalls in Canada are voluntary, which means it's up to the company to spread the word to importers and distributors to ensure products are removed from shelves.

The federal government, which regulates food imports in Canada, will alert provincial governments about recalls and, in turn, the provinces alert individual health units in cities across the country. In extreme cases, the government can order a product off the shelf, but in the last seven years only about half a dozen recalls among the thousands implemented have been mandatory.

But every recall is different and presents unique challenges, Chan said. For instance, a company may contact all of the food importers and distributors it deals with to alert them of a recall, but the message about the tainted product may not make it to all of the retail outlets that purchased the product, particularly in cases where a smaller store purchased products in bulk from another retail outlet. "It is a big deal because we cannot control where people buy their goods," Chan said. "Communication is something that we continue to try to improve."

Food recalls can also throw busy health units completely off track and delay important inspections and other work that is done during the normal course of business. In Toronto's case, Chan oversees 79 health inspectors who must inspect 16,000 food premises every year. Even one food recall can create a major disruption, Chan said. "If you have recalls after recalls, the regular is just being postponed," he said. "That means I probably lose production of inspectors for three to four days."

In the case of last year's botulism outbreak, health inspectors worked around the clock for the entire Thanksgiving Day long weekend. Although the outbreak was limited to the two cases in Toronto, it demonstrated the potentially devastating effects one tainted food shipment can have on a population.

"Recalls like this don't happen every day," Chan said. "We learn from every time we have this kind of experience."

Follow the four food safety steps 

(Food safety video - Dr. Justin Beaver)

Related links:
Maple Leaf deli meat contaminated with listeria causing foodborne outbreak

Listeria outbreak linked to Foody World supermarket food

Foodbourne illness in Canada

BBQ Food Safety

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Toronto Food Safety Inspection - DineSafe. Interview with Health Inspector Jim

October 24, 2016 7:55 pm

Updated: October 24, 2016 7:57 pm

Toronto Public Health not doing thousands of mandatory restaurant and food inspections (Reprint Oct. 26, 2016)

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Public Health not doing thousands of required inspections due to lack of resources Link: Video

Last year the City of Toronto should have done 30,545 routine health inspections in restaurants and food establishments across the city. It only completed 25,359 of them, which represents a 17 per cent shortfall. “Each inspector carries quite a workload already,” said Jim Chan, a retired Toronto Public Health inspector, who wasn’t surprised by the failure to meet minimum standards set by the Ontario government. For the past ten years, Toronto Public Health has failed to hit its inspection targets, so it’s now asking for more funding to hire staff to help remedy the situation.

Last year city staff failed to complete 5,186 inspections.

“Before my retirement, there was already some cutting of budget. You’re just thinning out the number of inspectors,” said Chan.

That can be quite risky because there will be no transparency of what’s going on in the restaurant.
Spokesperson Dr. Howard Shapiro said, “Toronto Public Health faces a number of pressures on inspections for food safety including an increasing numbers of required routine inspections (2,819 more in 2014 compared to 2006) and an increase in complaints in food safety.”
The agency is seeking to hire six more positions to lessen the workload for its current staff and to help them meet mandatory inspection targets.
Toronto has over 17,000 food establishments. “If you look at the Dinesafe website, ten per cent of them fail an inspection every year,” said Chan.
A violation can lead to serious health consequences, such as salmonella or listeria infections. Chan said he once saw staff at a seafood restaurant in rubber boots walking around in sewage due to a backed up toilet. “And they were continuing to process food.

More recently, a study out of McMaster University drew a possible link between food poisoning and Crohn’s disease.

Gabriela Villegas, a student at Ryerson University, said she became ill for five days after eating a sandwich and had to delay a trip to Mexico. “It was really awful. You can’t move, you just can’t go anywhere because you can feel sick anytime,” said Villegas.
Her friend Amir Nissan was alarmed at the high number of inspections that aren’t complete for a want of resources. “It’s definitely scary because you’re like, ‘What if this is like long-term damage to my stomach, or an infection that antibiotics can’t cure?’” said Nissan.
In rare cases people have become infected with Hepatitis A, a virus affecting the liver that can cause organ failure.

So far this year, according to the City of Toronto’s DineSafe database, at least 21 restaurants have been shut down and 1,417 have failed one food safety inspection.
Mayor John Tory said public safety is paramount, and despite requiring budgetary belt-tightening for all city department and agencies, he’s willing to invest in more inspectors.
“If it requires more inspectors and that requires an increase to the budget, in that area, then that’s what will be done,” Tory told reporters at a Monday morning press conference.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.