Food Safety Monitoring Program for Foods of Plant Origin

The Food Inspection Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs routinely assesses Ontario-produced foods of plant origin for various contaminants. Ontario Regulation 119/11 - Produce, Honey and Maple Products, under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, contributes to minimizing food safety risk for Ontario consumers.

The Food Safety Monitoring (FSM) Program is a tool to assist in the detection of non-compliance with standards regarding microbial organisms, agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals on or in Ontario-produced foods of plant origin. Through this program, the ministry gathers valuable information that supports Ontario's agri-food industry in producing safe foods of plant origin so that consumers can purchase Ontario products with confidence.

This program runs annually, with the bulk of the sampling activity taking place from May to October. Inspectors collect the majority of the samples over the summer months to correspond with the Ontario growing season.

Authority to Collect Samples

Ontario Regulation 119/11 is under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001. Inspectors are appointed under the act, which gives them the authority to collect samples.

Collection Locations

Samples are collected, according to established protocols, from points of sale and distribution centers across the province. These locations include retail operations, farmers' markets, roadside stands and warehouses. Only harvested produce, honey and maple products that are offered for sale or intended for sale are sampled.

Sampling Plan Design

The FSM Program is divided into two parts:

  • routine monitoring
  • compliance sampling

Routine Monitoring

The sampling plan adopts a risk-based approach.

Three factors are considered when determining what commodities to collect:

  1. dietary importance/consumption patterns
  2. how commodities are consumed (raw, cooked)
  3. outbreak data (world wide)

Two factors are considered when determining the number of each commodity to collect:

  1. production volumes in Ontario
  2. history of non-compliance

The sampling plan is broken down by commodity and county and does not identify specific collection sites or producer operations. Samples are randomly collected.

When non-compliance is detected on a routine monitoring sample, the producer is moved to the compliance part of the program.

Compliance Sampling

Samples collected as part of compliance sampling are based on previous compliance history.

Samples are collected each year from producers that have had non-compliance detected on previous samples. Samples are collected annually until the producers have two consecutive years of compliant results. Once two years of compliant results are received, the producer is removed from the compliance list.

Type of Analysis

Samples are analyzed for one or more of the following:

  • microbial organisms
  • agricultural chemical residues
  • heavy metals

Laboratory Results and Compliance Activities

When contaminant levels above Health Canada's acceptable limits are detected, the producer is immediately notified. Arrangements are made for a follow-up visit with a Risk Management Specialist to help identify causes and suggest corrective action. Other agencies may be notified to aid in follow-up action (e.g., Canadian Food Inspection Agency).

Additional Information

For additional information on the FSM Program, including results summaries, yearly program descriptions and how to obtain your lab results please visit the Foods of Plant Origin website at:


The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 as well as Ontario Regulation 119/11 can be found at

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Linda Hill, Data and Issues Coordinator
Creation Date: January 2014
Last Reviewed: June 2017