Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Hazard Identification Report 2019 - Section A - Agriculture and Food

HAZARD IDENTIFICATION REPORT 2019 - SECTION A - AGRICULTURE AND FOOD

If you require an alternative format, please email AskOFMEM@ontario.ca.

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Program

Hazard Identification Report 2019
Section A: Agriculture & Food

Office of the Fire Marshal & Emergency Management

Introduction

The Hazard Report contains information profiles for hazards, including a high-level overview of possible consequences. It is divided into 10 parts; an introduction and 9 sections labelled A-I as follows:

  1. Agriculture and Food
  2. Environmental
  3. Extraterrestrial
  4. Hazardous Materials
  5. Health
  6. Public Safety
  7. Structural
  8. Supply and Distribution
  9. Transportation

Contents

Agriculture and Food Hazards: Hazards related to agricultural activities and food products.

Farm Animal Disease

Go to next Hazard: Food Contamination

Definitions

Animal Diseases: Any deviation of the farm animal body from its normal or healthy state. Infectious diseases can spread from animals to animals and from animals to humans (zoonotic).

Foreign Animal Diseases (FAD): Animal diseases that are foreign to Canada. Some diseases are eradicated within Canada. There are also diseases that have never been diagnosed within the country, but exist internationally. These outside sources of disease present a threat to the Canadian livestock population (e.g. Notifiable Avian Influenza, Foot and Mouth, Peste des petits ruminants).

Animal Hazards: Condition that affect domestic livestock and wild species and may in turn have an impact on human health and safety (i.e. radiation sickness due to nuclear incidents, lead poisoning).

Description

Farm animal disease emergencies may occur due to an outbreak of a disease or another animal health-related hazard. An animal disease may be introduced through living animals, animal products and by-products, people and other species (including insects) and contaminated objects.[1]

Acts of terrorism (agricultural-bioterrorism, also referred to as “agroterrorism”) may also lead to this hazard. This is the deliberate introduction of a chemical or a microbial disease agent, either against livestock, crops or into the food chain, for the purpose of undermining stability and/or generating fear and causing economic harm.

The type of negative effects caused by animal disease depends on[2]:

  • the type of disease
  • whether it affects both animals and humans (zoonotic) or just animals alone.

If the disease is very contagious, then it is likely that it is already incubating in many animal populations (depending on the species and its distribution) by the time it is detected. If the disease is zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans, then a human health issue may arise, which could possibly result in injuries and even fatalities.

Amplification of animal disease or hazard contamination throughout the rest of an industry is possible if an illness affects the breeding segment of the population. Such risks are especially true for commodities such as swine and poultry. A problem such as contaminated feed (e.g. dioxins) or Salmonella in one flock can affect the production of millions of meat birds in hundreds of locations throughout the province or country.

For some types of disease, different subtypes pose different levels of risk. For example, there are 16 subtypes of avian influenza, most of which only infect birds. However, the H5N1 and H7N1 subtypes can be contagious to and lead to severe illness and death in humans.

The livestock industry in Canada includes both traditional species such as cattle, hogs, poultry and alternate species including bison, emus and others. The Canadian Animal Health Coalition on the Economic Impact of a Potential Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Canada (2002) predicted that the Canadian economy could suffer a total net economic loss ranging between $13.7 to $45.9 billion. Given the growth of the industry and value of livestock since then, even a single case of an animal disease located in Canada may have the potential to stop exports for more than three months.[3]

The provincial Animal Health Act[4] (AHA) provides an enabling framework for the oversight of animal health in Ontario, including authority for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to prevent, detect and respond to animal health hazards, including animal diseases. The legislation includes provisions to allow the government to take important steps to help reduce human and animal health impacts associated with wide spread animal disease.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the lead agency for the control and eradication of ‘Reportable’ or ‘Immediately Notifiable’ diseases. Ontario plays a supportive role on animal health-related emergency activities not directly related to control and eradication. Federally reportable diseases are outlined in the Health of Animals Act[5] and Reportable Diseases Regulations[6] and roles and responsibilities are outlined in the Foreign Animal Disease Emergency Response Plan (FADERP).[7] The CFIA has discretion to impose control or eradication measures and may establish programs to mitigate infection or spread of these diseases unilaterally, or with support from provincial jurisdictions.

Spatial Scale, Timing and Warning Period

Spatial Scale: Farm animal disease may result in widespread effects within the agricultural sector across Ontario and even beyond.

Timing: May occur at any time of the year.

Warning Period: In some cases, warning may be possible, however an outbreak is more likely to occur with little or no warning.

Potential Impacts

An animal disease and animal hazards emergency may result in:

  • Large production losses for livestock products. May result in a lack of available products.
  • The need for prevention and control measures, to prevent or halt the spread of disease.
  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.
  • Harm to wildlife populations and related industries, if susceptible. May result in loss of income, effects on hunting, tourism.
  • Risk to public health, including contamination through the environment, potable water, food, animal products and other vectors.
  • Illness or death of farm animals. The need for animal slaughter and carcass disposal for disease control.
  • Contamination of Food. May lead to illness or death. May strain the health system and response resources.
  • The need for case and contact management, such as isolation and quarantine.
  • The need for site or area access restrictions.
  • Reputational damage related to farming industry or government.

Secondary Hazards

  • Food Contamination
  • Food Shortage
  • Geopolitical Pressures
  • Infectious Disease

Provincial Risk Statement

The predominant negative impacts related to most foreign animal disease are due to animal movement restrictions and the disruption of market chains. However, widespread effects are possible.

Human impacts

If it is zoonotic, then it may result in sickness or fatalities in some people. The people most at risk of contracting disease are those who work with the afflicted animal species or their products and by-products. It is very unlikely that there would be many fatalities, unless the disease is able to be transmitted easily from human to human. There are also Public health risks to the human population through the environment, potable water, food, direct animal and fomite contact and insect vectors.

The disposal of stock for disease prevention and control would likely also have severe psychosocial effects on local communities, and possibly the general population as well.

Social impacts

There is a possibility of disruption to social networks and support systems in the event of a farm animal disease event, though these effects are less likely. Animal disease has the potential to cause socio-economic damage for an area that relies heavily on the livestock and livestock products industry.

Property Damage

Depending on the type of disease, some buildings and structures may not be suitable for use until after decontamination has taken place. Livestock property would certainly be affected, and perhaps completely lost in the case of death from disease, or dead stock disposal.

Critical infrastructure Disruptions

As the agricultural sector is considered a critical infrastructure. An event of significance would certainly disrupt critical infrastructure related to agriculture. In addition, this would have serious secondary consequences on the provision of food, and on the availability and health of workers in other critical industries.

Environmental Damage

Some diseases originate in or can be transmitted to wildlife (e.g. Chronic Wasting Disease, Tuberculosis etc.). This can sicken or kill large percentages of the wild species in the populations affected. Response measures may be more difficult when dealing with a wild population. Unsafe or improper disposal of infected carcasses could negatively impact the environment.

Economic Impacts

A significant animal health emergency could devastate the industry and have wide reaching economic impact. With increased trade, global markets, and international travel, the threat of an outbreak of foreign animal disease in Canada and/or the United States could result in significant economic loss due to restricted market access. Consumer confidence may also be lost and consumers may avoid purchasing products that they associate with a farm animal disease outbreak.

There is also a risk of losses of animals through disease mortality or by slaughter (and subsequent carcass disposal) of the animals once disease is identified.

 

Food Contamination

Go to Previous Hazard: Farm Animal Disease

Go to next Hazard: Plant Disease or Infestation

Definitions

Food contamination: Broadly defined as any situation that involves or could involve food which might pose a high risk to humans. The contamination or adulteration of food by physical, chemical or biological agents is invariably the cause of such emergencies.

Food-borne hazard: A biological, chemical, or physical agent in, or a condition of, food that has the potential to cause an adverse health effect.

Food-borne illness: Human illness with evidence indicating a food was the source of exposure to the contaminant causing illness. Food-borne illness occurs when a person consumes food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins[8].

Description

A food emergency resulting from contamination may occur when food is tainted by a microbial, chemical or physical agent that is harmful to humans, through natural processes, human error (such as unsafe food handling practices), or intentionally.

Food emergency resulting from food contamination vary depending on the type of agent (microbial, chemical or physical) but may include illness (including potential allergic reactions) or possibly even fatalities.

Food emergencies can be caused by microbial agents, such as:

  • Bacteria and their toxins (e.g. E-coli and Botulism)
  • Viruses (e.g. Norwalk and Hepatitis A)
  • Parasites (e.g. Cryptosporidiosis and Giardia lamblia)
  • Prions (e.g. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy/Mad Cow Disease)

Food emergencies can be caused by chemical agents, including:

  • Antibiotic residues
  • Pesticide residues
  • Chemicals and metals
  • Allergens

Potential causes of food safety emergencies include:

  • Food contamination, high visibility recalls, including Class I recalls[9] (i.e. situations in which there is a reasonable probability that the consumption of a food product will cause adverse health consequences or death).
  • Large scale food-borne disease outbreaks, serious allergic reactions, injuries or deaths relating to food consumption.
  • Sabotage and threats involving food safety.
  • Disasters that have significant secondary effects on Canada’s food safety.

At the federal level, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency[10] (CFIA) is responsible for enforcing the food safety standards established by Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The CFIA delivers inspection services related to food processors that export outside of their province. They are responsible for food recalls[11] involving both provincially and federally inspected products. CFIA is responsible for verifying that industry is meeting federal food safety and regulatory requirements, while PHAC conducts food-related illness outbreak surveillance and provides epidemiology advice to Canadians on how to protect themselves during an outbreak. In an outbreak HC, CFIA and PHAC will work with local public health officials and provincial ministries of health to confirm the source of food-related illnesses when an outbreak is suspected.

In Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), has responsibility for public health, supported by the 36 boards of health in the inspection of food premises, outbreak investigation and food recalls. The Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) have responsibilities for trade-related food safety and quality standards for food processed for sale within Ontario. Municipal boards of health inspect for food safety in the food service and food retail sectors.

The investigation of and response to multi-jurisdictional food-borne hazards or illness outbreaks in Ontario involves several parties at multiple levels of government with complementary responsibilities. The Ontario Food-borne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (ON-FIORP)[12] is used in response to suspected or confirmed food-borne hazards or illness outbreaks in Ontario.

Spatial Scale, Timing and Warning Period

Spatial Scale: Food contamination may result in widespread effects within the agricultural sector of Ontario. Contamination of food also effects supply exported from Ontario to other countries.

Timing: May occur at any time of the year.

Warning Period: In some cases, warning may be possible; however an outbreak is more likely to occur with little or no warning.

Potential impacts

  • Illness or death. May strain the health system and response resources.
  • Reports of serious allergic reactions
  • The need for prevention and control measures.
  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.
  • Reputational damage related to food supply and inspection.

Secondary Hazards

  • Food Shortage
  • Farm Animal Disease
  • Geopolitical Pressures
  • Infectious Disease

Provincial Risk Statement

Events relating to physical contamination of food can be widespread, and may pose serious risk to human health and can result in consumer fears and lack of confidence in the food supply.

Acts of terrorism (agricultural-bioterrorism, also referred to as “agroterrorism”) may also lead to this hazard. This is the deliberate introduction of a chemical or a microbial disease agent, either against livestock, crops or into the food chain, for the purpose of undermining stability or generating fear and causing economic harm.

Human Impacts

The most common symptoms associated with food contamination include (but are not limited to) stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. The symptoms may be different depending on the type of agent, and may include fatalities.

Social Impacts

Public perception and fear can also factor into food safety emergencies, and timely, coordinated emergency response is a public expectation. Public awareness and education about the risks associated with food borne illness is a priority, since food borne diseases are generally preventable.

Property Damage

Property damage cannot occur from Food Contamination.

Critical Infrastructure Disruption

Depending of the scale of impact, numerous critical infrastructures may be affected by labour shortage or supply problems because of food contamination.

Environmental Damage

A food contamination emergency is unlikely to result in property or environmental damage. However, a slight risk does exist depending at what stage of food production contamination occurs and whether any subsequent harm can be done to wild species.

Economic Impacts

Recalls may be widespread and cover an extensive range of products. This is a particular risk for cases of contamination of product shipped over a large area and used to make many other products. Recalls can result in a major loss of revenue for the companies affected. Consumer confidence may be lost and people may avoid products and/or brands that are unaffected but which they associate with the food contamination. The public can also lose faith in the government and its ability to regulate under such circumstances.

Plant Disease or Infestation

Go to Previous Hazard: Food Contamination

Definitions

Plant Disease: Generally defined as any series of harmful physiological processes caused by irritation of the plant by some invading agent. These invading agents are typically referred to as plant pathogens, and include viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae.

Pest Infestation: An invasion by plant pests classified by the feeding habits of the pest: either foliage feeding or root feeding.

Description

Plant diseases and pest infestations are routine events that are managed every growing season by industry and government. Like animal diseases, plant diseases can be widespread and cause severe economic or agricultural plant health problems, including loss of access to specific markets.

Seasonal weather patterns can increase or decrease the risk of plant disease and pest infestation. In particular, extreme temperatures, drought or severe precipitation can influence the number and distribution of diseases and pests. Plant diseases and pest infestations can affect both agricultural (e.g. corn, apple trees) and wild (e.g. ash, pine) plant species; however the effects on agricultural plant species represent the most serious economic impacts for the province.

Agricultural plant diseases include:

  • Bacterial diseases (e.g. black rot)
  • Fungal diseases (e.g. downy mildew)

Potential Pests include:

  • The Emerald Ash Borer
  • The Asian Longhorn Beetle

While diversity of plant species can help to lower the risk of a plant disease or pest infestation having a major negative impact on the economy and human health, a greater number of diverse agricultural products also brings new disease detection and control challenges.[13]

The introduction of new species, new genetic lineages, increased international trade and travel, can result in the introduction of new diseases and pests (referred to as exotic or invasive species) or an increase in established ones. Invasive species such as insects or plant pathogens are a growing concern since they can adapt, spread quickly and do not have natural predators in the new environment. Many native species have no way to defend against these introduced species, and are therefore vulnerable. Invasive species can be introduced in many different ways including natural migration, through product packaging and through transportation. Increased travel has allowed insects and other pests to make trips of greater distances than they would have been able to survive in the past.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Plant Protection Act and its regulations. The CFIA provides detailed information concerning plant pests that pose or have been determined as a quarantine risk, including maps of Regulated Areas.

At the provincial level, OMAFRA is a member of the Critical Plant Pest Management Committee[14] where critical plant pest issues are considered and collaborative approaches are developed in keeping with the legislative mandates of the participants. This committee facilitates the sharing of critical information resources and expertise to meet the objectives to prevent, eradicate and manage critical plant pests affecting Ontario.

Potential impacts

  • Harm to related industries, if susceptible. May result in loss of income, other effects.
  • The need for prevention and control measures, to prevent or halt the spread of disease.
  • Contamination of Food. May lead to illness or death. May strain the health system and response resources.
  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.
  • Severe economic or agricultural plant health problems
  • Ecosystem damage or disruption. Need for assurance monitoring of the environment.
  • Reputational damage related to agriculture industry or government.

Secondary Hazards

  • Food Shortage
  • Farm Animal Disease
  • Geopolitical Pressures
  • Infectious Disease
  • Wildland Fire

Depending on the type of disease or pest, the risk of secondary hazards can change. For example, an infestation of the Asian long horn beetle could result in the death of trees in an area which provides more fuel for fire.

Provincial Risk Statement

Human Impacts

Human impacts of plant disease or infestation are unlikely, except as a secondary hazard affecting food supply or contaminated products. Impacts to the wider ecosystem can be detrimental to human industry, as well as use and enjoyment of outdoor spaces.

Social Impacts

Social impacts of plant disease or infestation are unlikely, and mostly indirect.

Property Damage

Damage to physical structures due to plant disease and pest infestation is not possible as a direct effect. Damage to agricultural and other land is possible, and has the potential to affect the use and productivity of the land.

Critical Infrastructure Disruption

Depending of the scale of impact, critical infrastructure may be affected by secondary hazards, in particular food supply.

Environmental Damage

Environmental damage may occur if the infestation or disease spreads beyond the agricultural crops, or if the treatment (e.g. pesticides) of the hazard leads to environmental issues such as contamination. This may affect the quality of the habitat or the amount or quality of food for herbivores.

Economic Impacts

A severe outbreak of plant disease or pest infestation could have severe negative economic consequences. Entire crops could be lost and livelihoods destroyed. An outbreak could force the closure of the Ontario market for export to other provinces or countries. Depending on the type and extent of the disease or pest, tourism and other industries may also be affected.

End Notes

[1] Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, correspondence [via email], March 2018.

[2] Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, correspondence [via email], December 2017

[3] Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, correspondence [via email], March 2018

[4] S.O. 2009. c. 31.

[5] Health of Animals Act, 1990. http://inspection.gc.ca/english/reg/jredirect2.shtml?heasana

[6] Reportable Diseases Regulations, 1990. http://inspection.gc.ca/english/reg/jredirect2.shtml?rdmd

[7] An agreement between the province of Ontario and the CFIA. 

[8] Canada’s Food-borne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (FIORP) 2017: A guide to multi-jurisdictional enteric outbreak response. Public Health Agency of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/health-risks-safety/canadas-foodborne-illness-outbreak-response-protocol-fiorp-guide-multi-jurisdictional-enteric-outbreak-response.html

[9]“Recall Classification” means the numerical designation i.e. Class I, Class II or Class III; Classes are assigned by CFIA to a product recalls. This indicates the relative degree of health risk presented by the recalled product(Assessment of the Food Emergency Response System)

[10] CFIA reports to the Minister of Health for food safety issues

[11] More detailed information on food recalls can be found on CFIA’s website www.inspection.gc.ca

[12] Ontario’s Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (ON-FIORP). 2013. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/enviro/docs/fiorp_protocol.pdf

[13] Statistics Canada, 2017 Farm and Farm Operator Data. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/95-640-X

[14] A committee of senior officials