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Food Safety

The BCCDC has conducted two research studies on food safety.

FOODSAFE Knowledge Retention Study

Research shows that 95% of people who took the FOODSAFE Level 1 course five years ago or earlier would fail the exam if they wrote it today. That’s why all new FOODSAFE Level 1 certificates issued in British Columbia will have a five-year expiry date, starting July 29, 2013.

Purpose of the studies

The purpose of the studies were to find out if:

  • the ability of FOODSAFE graduates to remember principles of food safety from the course declined over time,
  • the workplace influences food safety knowledge and attitudes in workers, and
  • trained (FOODSAFE) food service workers have better food safety practices at home
    [this was Phase 1 - conducted in 2009]
  • retraining food service workers was effective
    [this was Phase 2 - conducted in 2011 and 2012]

Participants for Phase 1: In the spring of 2009, a phone survey of 500 FOODSAFE graduates working in the food services industry, 395 FOODSAFE graduates no longer working in the food services industry and 201 food workers who had not taken the FOODSAFE course before asked about food handler knowledge, practices and attitudes.

Participants for Phase 2: In the spring of 2012, the phone survey was repeated with 18 food workers who were retrained in 2011 (the intervention group) and with 19 food workers who did not receive retraining (the control group). In addition, another set of food workers who didn't participate in the 2009 survey, and who never received any FOODSAFE training were also included.

What were the results?

Both of these studies have been published in the journal Food Control.

Phase 1:

McIntyre, L.; Vallaster, L.; Wilcott, L.; Henderson, S.B.; Kosatsky, T., Evaluation of food safety knowledge, attitudes and self-reported hand washing practices in FOODSAFE trained and untrained food handlers in British Columbia, canada. 

Food Control 2013, 30, 150-156

Phase 2: 

McIntyre, L.; Peng, D.; Henderson, S.B. Retraining effectiveness in FOODSAFE trained food handlers in British Columbia, Canada.

Food Control 2014, 35, 137-141

FOODSAFE graduates did have significantly higher scores than untrained workers, but this knowledge decreased over time. After one year, FOODSAFE graduates forgot key food safety principles and most scored less than 70%. FOODSAFE graduates did have better attitudes and practices in comparison to untrained food workers. 

Proper food cooling 

An example of a key food safety principle is the proper way to cool foods. To keep foods out of the DANGER ZONE cool after cooking to 20°C within 2 hours, then to 4°C within 4 hours. Using an ice bath is a good idea, or transfer foods from big pots into smaller shallow pans, so the food cools faster. Always measure the internal temperature of the food.


Proper dishwashing

Another example of a key food safety principle is the proper way to wash dishes. The sequence of steps is: 

          1. WASH 
          2. RINSE 
          3. SANITIZE 
          4. AIR DRY

The correct amount of household bleach to sanitize surfaces is one ounce per gallon (or 5mL per litre) to achieve at least 200ppm (the desired range is between 100 and 200ppm, household bleach can vary between 3.25% and 5%). Only 64% of trained workers and 55% of untrained workers answered this correctly! 

More results are discussed in a 2 page hand-out

To find out more contact:
 Food Protection Services at 604.707.2440

Listeria in Food Processing Facilities Study

In 2008, an outbreak of listeriosis caused by contaminated ready-to-eat (RTE) deli-meat resulted in 23 deaths and over 50 severely ill persons across Canada. The meat was produced in a federally registered and inspected facility in Ontario. Are RTE foods produced in BC under provincial inspection authority contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes listeriosis? To answer this question, a survey was conducted in 2009 in dairy, fish and meat facilities in BC that produce RTE foods. The survey was conducted to estimate the prevalence of generic Listeria and Listeria monocytogenes in the foods and production environments of BC food processing facilities.


Dairy, meat and fish facilities were visited by inspectors (Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety Specialists) between August and October 2009. At each facility, up to 6 food and 6 environmental swab (sponge) samples were taken (sampling method). The food samples were tested in the PHSA Laboratory using an approved method (MFHPB-30 and MFLP-74 summary) to culture and enumerate Listeria found in foods. Swabs were taken from three areas in each facilitiy: food contact surfaces, close-to-food contact surfaces and non-food contact surfaces. Swabs were also tested for Listeria. Swab samples are useful to find out if Listeria is present on surfaces such as slicers and work tables where food is prepared. 


A total of 262 RTE food and 305 environmental swab samples were tested in the 53 facilities visited (17 dairy, 13 fish and 23 meat). Overall, generic Listeria species (generic Listeria include Listeria monocytogenes and other Listeria bacteria which grow in the same environmental conditions but do not themselves cause disease in humans) were found in 9% and Listeria monocytogenes was found in 5% of ready-to-eat foods. When considering results by type of facility, Listeria monocytogenes was only found in ready-to-eat foods collected from fish processors (chart, right). 


The types of foods contaminated included cold-smoked salmon and hot-smoked salmon products such as salmon leather and jerky (complete list of foods).

Generic Listeria species were recovered from 30% of non-food contact surface swabs, 5% of close-to-food contact swabs and 6% of food contact swabs. When comparing the proportion of facilities with environmental surfaces positive for Listeria andListeria monocytogenes (note: only facilities that met the criterion of at least one swab sample collected in the three sampling areas were included), higher rates of Listeria and Listeria monocytogenes were found in fish facilities in comparison to meat and dairy facilities (chart, right) . 

Further, Listeria monocytogenes was only found on food contact surfaces in fish processing facilities. 

This chart shows that although generic Listeria was found on non-food-contact surfaces in all types of processing facilties (dairy, fish and meat), only in fish facilities was Listeria monocytogenes found on food-contact surfaces and on foods. This points to a lack of hygienic control in fish processing facilities. Put another way, this chart also shows that where ready-to-eat foods were positive for Listeria monocytogenes, generic Listeria was also found in the environment - this demonstrates the value of monitoring for LIsteria using environmental swabs in processing environments.

What this study tells us and what the public needs to know

 It is clear from this study that fish processing facilities producing ready-to-eat foods require special attention. Public health and government agencies will continue to work together at all levels to ensure risks from ready-to-eat foods are controlled. 

The public is reminded that for “vulnerable populations” – especially pregnant women and the elderly – there is a risk of becoming ill when consuming certain kinds of foods such as deli-meat, soft cheese and smoked fish.

For a list of recommendations from this study please see the executive summary and the full report.

SOURCE: Food Safety ( )
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