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Canada scores high in food safety, low on sustainability

October 26, 2015  By Conference Board of Canada

October 26, 2015, Ottawa, Ont – Canada performs well in the areas of food safety, food security and healthy foods and diets but shows a weaker performance in the areas of industry prosperity and environmental sustainability, according to preliminary results from the Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Food Observatory’s first annual report card on food.

Released at the Food & Drink Summit 2015 in Toronto, the report assesses Canada’s food and beverage sector performance in five areas against 16 leading peer Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Identified as key elements in our Canadian Food Strategy, the five domains are: industry prosperity, healthy food and diets, food safety, household food security, and environmental sustainability.


  • Canada earns an “A” for food safety, a “B” for food security and healthy foods and diets.
  • The country receives a “B-” for industry prosperity and a “C+” in environmental sustainability.

The annual report card measures 43 food performance metrics tied to the five areas of focus outlined in the Canadian Food Strategy.

“The genesis of our report card stems from our Canadian Food Strategy and the recognition that Canadians want foods that are safe, nutritious, affordable and available to everyone, produced in ways that are environmentally sustainable,” explains Dr. Michael Bloom, vice-president of industry and business strategy. “This annual report card represents the fulfillment of an important initiative promised in our strategy as a way to track Canada’s progress and identify emerging issues. Already, Canada performs well in several areas against international peer countries, but it could rank much higher if progress were made in key areas of our food system.”

Food Safety = A

All countries have very high food safety standards, but Canada (along with Ireland) is an excellent performer relative to its peers. For Canada, work remains to improve reporting on chemical risks in food consumption (e.g. Total Diet Studies), more frequent nutrition and dietary studies, and additional improvements to traceability and radionuclide standards.

Food Security = B

For developed countries like Canada, overall food availability is not at issue nationally. Rather, access to, and use of, safe, nutritious and affordable food remains a broad concern as some four million Canadians are affected by food insecurity due to economic constraints, natural hazards such as floods and droughts, rising animal feed and other food costs.

Healthy Foods and Diets = B

Canada’s performance in this area is helped by lower than average intake levels of salt and saturated fats, along with a diverse diet (higher share of non-starchy foods in diet) and moderate food literacy levels. However, somewhat weaker results for prevalence of diabetes, obesity and excess food acquisition hinder the country’s overall performance in this domain.

Industry Prosperity = B-

Canada punches below its weight in food innovation, product market regulation, livestock production, and representation among leading global food companies. Conversely, Canada’s strengths are in its resource endowments, farm capitalization, crop production and economic viability.

Environmental Sustainability = C+

Canada gets its lowest grade on environmental sustainability, which considers impacts such as food waste, water withdrawals, air quality, soil health, and seafood sustainability. Canada has higher rates of both household food waste and food losses before and after purchases. With rising rates of greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions, Canada also ranks last in these two measures. Canada performs strongly in soil health while work remains on improving its seafood sustainability performance.

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