A new, comprehensive report ranks Canada and Ireland as the top countries in food safety performance. The document, produced by The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food in Canada in collaboration with the University of Guelph’s Food Institute, ranked 17 countries based on 10 food safety performance indicators across risk assessment, management and communication. France, the U.K., Norway and the U.S. round out the top tier. The other countries that the Conference Board’s Jean-Charles Le Vallée and the Guelph’s Sylvain Charlebois studied were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. The benchmarking assessment identified and evaluated common elements of global systems and showed that all the countries have very high food safety standards. Comparisons between countries can be difficult since each faces different public health challenges, food supply chain capacity and food safety systems and regulations. “However different, each country’s respective food safety system faces comparable responsibilities to ensure safe food,” the authors wrote. “There is also a real need to harmonize standards and protocols among nations.” There have been other world rankings of food safety, but Le Vallée and Charlebois wrote that those were limited by the fact that there is currently no metric that captures the entire food safety system. For example, one ranking released in August that put the European countries ahead of Canada and the U.S., but focused solely on traceability. For another, the global food source monitoring company Food Sentry created a ranking based on the number of food safety violations each country had. For risk assessment the new Canadian analysis examined pesticide use, total diet studies, foodborne illness rates and national food/dietary consumption studies. For risk management, the researchers looked at national food safety response capacity, food recalls, food traceability and radionuclides standards. And for risk communication, they studied food allergies and public trust. Although the authors of the new Canadian study found the Food Sentry study to be a flawed analysis, they wrote that the results did reveal that chemical risks accounted for more than a third of violations. In their own work, Le Vallée and Charlebois found that pesticide use has changed little since 2010, but that Ireland has improved while Belgium has worsened. In terms of reporting chemical risks through total diet studies, France and Italy ranked the highest. Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. showed the strongest scores for incidence of Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia, E. coli and Listeria. The Scandanavian countries and Germany had the worst rates. The researchers also found that most countries have strong national food safety response capacities, although Austria’s lags a bit, and that public trust in food safety was highest in Canada and Ireland. In order to reduce possible controversy, the authors wrote that future world rankings in food safety would benefit from additional primary data and objective indicators. They recommend that more funding be allocated for future food safety data collection and that a food safety summit be held for nations “to find consensus on common robust food safety performance measurements, drawing on metrics from this study, among others.”

  • Celso Castellano

    I am not surprised that US is not included in the top 10 on the list of having good Food Safety Performance. Similarly, when HACCP program was implemented in European countries in 1980s, USA was behind in adapting it until early 1990s (for seafood, meat and poultry).