LLRICE601: an technical update from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

The CFIA and Health Canada have concluded preliminary scientific risk assessments of an unapproved, genetically modified and herbicide-resistant rice, LLRICE601, developed by Bayer Crop Science. This rice had been found at trace levels in long grain rice in the USA, according to a statement released on 18.08.06 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although assessment results indicate the unlikelihood of a risk to human health or to livestock, the CFIA has taken steps in accordance with the unapproved status of the rice and, in order to minimise its unintentional import into Canada, has provided technical recommendations for the industry. The agency also has reminded individual industry representatives of their responsibility to implement measures aimed at barring LLRICE601 from entering Canada, as well as of their general responsibility to fulfil the regulations of both the Food and Drugs Act and the Feeds Act.

To ensure industry compliance, the CFIA has developed and initiated a verification strategy which will be evaluated and, if necessary, modified after approximately two months of practice. Interested parties will be informed of policy changes directly and through web updates.

Restating the practice of zero tolerance for import and sale, the CFIA is providing industry guidance through direct consultation on the unapproved rice. The agency recommends sampling and testing with sensitivity threshold of 0.5 percent and a confidence interval of 95 percent - in accordance with techniques published by the GIPSA Rice Inspection Handbook. Within these guidelines, importers retain the free choice of tests, but must be aware of their varying degrees of sensitivity and specificity:  for example, some available tests do not distinguish between LLRICE601 and the related, Canadian-approved LLRICE62.

As complementary measures, the CFIA has recommended that importers obtain documents guaranteeing shipments as being free from LLRICE601: certification may address origin, intended use, or composition of imported rice. Alternatively, importers may provide certification of negative results from approved detection tests.

Uncertified shipments will be more likely tested by the agency, and imported rice in general will also be subject to spot checks: after entering Canada, shipments may be checked for compliance verification in warehouses or at the first point of distribution. Further, the CFIA may choose to perform laboratory tests, with a testing period of two days and during which the rice in question may not be distributed. Shipments found to contain LLRICE601 must be documented subsequently to have been returned to the USA - or to have been disposed of in a manner which precludes entry into the Canadian marketplace.