To mitigate the risk associated with E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce from the United States, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has announced the implementation of temporary Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) license conditions.

The measures will be in effect from Sept. 28 to Dec. 20.

According to the CFIA, this action was taken to address the recurring outbreaks of foodborne illnesses related to E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce imported from the United States. Investigations by U.S. authorities have traced the source of the outbreaks to the California Salinas Valley counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey.

During the designated period, importers of romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce from the U.S. must adhere to one of the following requirements:

  • Declare that the product does not originate from the Salinas Valley counties of California mentioned above, or
  • Submit an attestation form and Certificates of Analysis for each shipment, confirming that the romaine lettuce is free from detectable levels of E. coli O157:H7.

The CFIA emphasizes that these temporary SFC license conditions are in addition to existing import requirements. Importers must also comply with other Canadian legislation and fulfill specific conditions at the time of import.

To import romaine lettuce from outside the specified California counties, importers are required to provide Proof of Origin indicating the state and county where the romaine lettuce was harvested.

For romaine lettuce originating from the Salinas Valley counties, the following conditions must be met:

  • An attestation, using form Importer’s Attestation for Romaine Lettuce Products from the Salinas Valley, California, United States (CFIA/ACIA 5961; 2023/06), confirming that sampling was conducted in accordance with the temporary SFC license conditions and that E. coli O157:H7 was not detected.
  • Certificates of Analysis for each romaine product in the shipment, issued by an accredited laboratory, showing negative results for E. coli O157:H7.

Importers must ensure that romaine lettuce from California has been handled by a certified member of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA). Similarly, romaine lettuce from Arizona must be handled by a shipper certified by the Arizona LGMA.

The sampling and testing for E. coli O157:H7 can be performed using two options: finished-product sampling or pre-harvest sampling. In either case, the laboratory conducting the tests must be accredited by an accreditation body conforming to the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2017 for specific tests.

The CFIA urges importers to strictly adhere to the sampling requirements to ensure the safety of romaine lettuce shipments to Canada. Failure to comply with the temporary license conditions and import requirements may result in enforcement action taken by the CFIA.

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