Food safety

Food safety matters!

Food-borne illnesses are preventable. Food safety is a real concern not only here in the North but throughout BC, across the country, and indeed, around the world. Foodborne illnesses can be caused by anything from a food handler with an infectious disease spreading it by accident, to some cooks mistakenly using bacteria-laden juices to add flavor to a roast beef dinner.

Health Canada estimates that there are 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada every year. But public health experts also estimate that only about one in five people seek medical attention when they suspect they’re suffering from such an illness, and of those only a small percentage have samples collected to confirm the presence of an enteric pathogen.

Find more information below on safe food preparation, and how food preparation in public facilities is regulated to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Food safety tips

Holiday food safety

While everybody is enjoying themselves in the company of family and friends, we should all keep food safety in mind. Here are some useful information pages for holiday food safety.

Raw milk

Raw milk is not safe to drink. It is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine, and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. Heat treatment of milk (pasteurization) kills most bacteria in milk.

Several studies and tests confirm that raw milk can contain a number of disease causing organisms. The “big four” include Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter. Many of these organisms can cause severe illnesses that, in some cases, may have permanent effects. In severe cases, illness resulting from these four organisms can even cause death. People with compromised or undeveloped immune systems such as the elderly, people with certain chronic diseases, pregnant women, and young children are particularly vulnerable.

Please visit the BC Centre for Disease Control for more information.

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Public facilities

Preparing food for the public is very different from cooking for a family. Restaurants and other businesses that sell food the public are expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness and follow good food safety practices at all times. Environmental Health Officers permit, inspect, and grant approvals for facilities that provide food to the public. Permitting and approvals help to ensure that your local food businesses have the ability to prepare food in a safe and sanitary manner. For information and how to apply for the health approval of a food facility, go to food facilities.

Community food events that are open to everyone are held to a high standard and may require a temporary food permit. This permitting process enables an EHO to engage with event organizers and vendors to review food handling and sanitation procedures and provide information on regulatory requirements. For information on how to apply for food permitting at an event, go to temporary food permits and markets.

If you have concerns or would like to submit a complaint about a food facility, please call 250-565-7322 or email php@northernhealth.ca. In person consultations are by appointment only and dependent on availability of a local EHO.

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Recalls and allergy alerts

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides valuable information for Canadians about food safety issues, including a food recall subscription service. Visitors to their site can subscribe to the CFIA automatic food recall update service where they will receive food recalls and allergy alerts directly via e-mail the moment they are issued.

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Resources