Microbial Risk Assessment Section

The Microbial Risk Assessment Section formally assesses the health risk posed by bacteria, viruses and parasites in specific foods.

Activities of the Risk Assessment Section include:

  • Scientifically assessing the potential health risks associated with microbial pathogens in the Canadian food supply;
  • Determining the microbiological safety of new or improved food processing and handling techniques proposed by the food industry;
  • Working in conjunction with Microbiology Research Division to address information gaps for risk assessments; and
  • Assessing the microbial safety of new food products, additives and ingredients.

Health Canada has a mandated responsibility to perform health risk assessments in response to requests from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as laid out in the Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements between Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Health risk assessments are also requested by other federal, provincial and territorial government agencies. These health risk assessments are usually qualitative in nature and will conclude that the food being assessed poses a Health Risk 1, 2, 3 or no health risk. The following definitions are used for Health Risks 1, 2 and 3:

  • Health Risk 1 represents a situation where there is a reasonable probability that the consumption/exposure to a food will lead to adverse health consequences which are serious or life- threatening, or that the probability of a foodborne outbreak situation is considered high.
  • Health Risk 2 represents a situation where there is a reasonable probability that the consumption/exposure to a food will lead to temporary or non-life threatening health consequences, or that the probability of serious adverse consequences is considered remote.
  • Health Risk 3 represents a situation where there is a reasonable probability that the consumption/exposure to a food is not likely to result in any adverse health consequence. The situation identified may be an indication of a breakdown in Good Manufacturing Practices; in Good Agricultural Practices; in Good Practices in Veterinary Medicine or some other relevant factor.

Microbiological research or expert opinion may be required to complete a risk assessment and therefore the Risk Assessment Section works closely with the Microbiology Research Division and national and international experts.

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