Memorandum (Clarification) - IMPROVEST™ Treated Intact Male Pigs

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October 26, 2012

1400 Merivale Rd
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y9

Area Meat Program Managers, Area Program Specialists, Supervisors and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspection Staff who Perform Post-mortem Inspection of Hog Carcasses in Federally Registered Slaughter Establishments.

The purpose of this memo is to clarify the conditions under which intact male pigs treated with IMPROVEST™ and their carcasses are to be handled at federally registered slaughter establishments.

Registered by Health Canada, IMPROVEST™ injection is indicated for the temporary suppression of testicular function and reduction of boar taint in intact male pigs intended for slaughter.

Market weight intact male pigs, including ridglings and cryptorchids, treated with IMPROVEST™ as per established protocol are considered as barrows when presented for slaughter. Every shipment of treated animals must be accompanied by a statement on the Swine Information Document or a completed and signed IMPROVEST™ Farm Declaration (copy attached) stipulating that the intact males, including the ridglings and cryptochids in the shipment have been effectively treated with IMPROVEST™ in accordance with established protocol. As per current protocol, producers must identify every treated pig with a specific checkmark slap tattoo character (checkmark) in order to positively identify treated animals.

Meat products derived from market weight intact male pigs that have been effectively treated with IMPROVEST™ may be simply identified as pork.

Every operator of a slaughter establishment handling IMPROVEST™ treated animal shall develop, implement and maintain a control program to verify that boar taint is effectively controlled. Because the hogs are initially considered barrows, the operator is responsible for detecting any carcass that exhibit an abnormal odour and for controlling their distribution.

It should be noted that Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is currently reviewing the policy regarding the inspection of all pig carcasses at time of post-mortem inspection for boar taint. Amendments will be made to Chapter 17 of the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures, requiring that every operator of a slaughter establishment handling swine develop, implement and maintain a control program to verify that boar taint is effectively controlled in the derived meat products. CFIA inspectors will no longer perform organoleptic routine post-mortem inspection of pig carcasses for possible boar taint.

For more information please refer to the attached Questions and Answers' list.

Veterinarians in charge (VIC) are encouraged to share this information with operators.

Original signed by:

Claude Boissonneault
Veterinary Program Specialist,
National Meat Procedures
Meat Programs Division

IMPROVEST™ - Questions and Answers – October 26, 2012

1. How should intact hogs (including ridglings and cryptorchids) treated with IMPROVEST™ be considered on the Canadian market?

They should be considered barrows. They must be delivered with a completed and signed IMPROVEST Farm Declaration form (or an equivalent declaration on a Swine Information Document). Treated hogs are identified with a specific checkmark slap tattoo character (checkmark) in order to positively identify treated animals.

2. Are IMPROVEST™ treated hogs physically different from boars?

The testicles of IMPROVEST™-treated hogs are smaller than those of untreated male pigs. There is some variability, however, as is the case with boars. In a trial conducted in Brazil, researchers checked whether testicle diameter could be used as a criterion for evaluating treatment compliance and treatment response.

The following threshold was set:

  • Less than 110 mm: confirmation of treatment compliance and response
  • More than 110 mm: the carcass should be subjected to boar taint evaluation

The result was that the hogs in the second group did not exhibit any more odour.

3. How is the success of IMPROVEST™ treatement evaluated?

Treated hogs are assessed on the farm two weeks after the second injection (Compliance Inspection). If they exhibit any boar characteristics or behaviours, they are re-treated.

Producers/workers must adhere to the program in order to use IMPROVEST™ and to perform this assessment.

4. Will these hogs all be considered market hogs, no matter their weight, or will we have to make the distinction currently set out in the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MHMOP) between hogs weighing more than 110 kg and those weighing less, in the event of boar taint detected on IMPROVEST™ treated hogs?

The treated hogs will all initially be considered barrows, no matter their weight. However, if they exhibit taint (i.e. failure of treatment compliance or response), the carcasses will have to be considered boars, and subjected to the applicable policy.

5. If taint needs to be assessed in IMPROVEST™ treated hog carcasses, is the assessment performed by the CFIA or the operator?

Because the treated hogs are initially considered barrows, the operator is responsible for detecting any treated hog carcass that exhibit an abnormal odour and for controlling their distribution.

6. If there is any taint, is the hog considered to be a light boar for labelling purposes?

In the presence of taint, a hog is considered a boar and subjected to the applicable policy.

7. If the operator detects an odour in IMPROVEST™ treated hog carcasses, will the CFIA attest to the odour for the purposes of grading the carcasses?


8. Given that the IMPROVEST™ treated hogs are considered barrows, are the derived meat products eligible for export to markets that do not have any specific restrictions?

Yes, they are.

9. Do the specific restrictions imposed by foreign countries on boars (including the marking of carcasses to prevent export to markets that do not permit boars) apply to IMPROVEST™-treated hogs?

No, they do not apply because IMPROVEST™-treated animals are considered as barrows.

Internationally, 63 countries have already approved the product. This includes the USA, Japan, EU, Korea and Russia.

CFIA is satisfied that IMPROVEST™-treated animals meet the Canadian requirements (the treatment is deemed to be equivalent to physical castration); as such there are no additional export requirements for meat products derived from carcasses of IMPROVEST™-treated animals.

In cases where the treatment with IMPROVEST™ is deemed unsatisfactory, the policy in force respecting boar meat will apply.

In the event that the authorities of an importing country inform the CFIA of restrictions that apply to the products derived from IMPROVEST™>-treated animals, operators will have to take the necessary measures to meet the requirements of the importing country, as is the case for any additional export requirements

10. Is there a withdrawal period?

There is no withdrawal period required for IMPROVEST™. However, the manufacturer indicates that the product must be administered at least three to ten weeks before slaughter to ensure that boar taint odours are dissipated by the time of slaughter.

11. Can the testicles of IMPROVEST™ treated market weight hogs be harvested for human consumption?

Yes, these testicles can be harvested as edible products as long as they are subjected to the usual requirements respecting the harvest of carcass parts for human consumption. These include the need for the operator to develop, implement and maintain a control program to verify that these products are harvested under hygienic conditions, derived from approved carcasses, are free of defects and are properly handled, refrigerated/frozen, packaged and labelled.

12. Are there any health risks for workers who handle hogs and the carcasses of hogs treated with IMPROVEST™?

As the product itself is not transferred to the meat and does not exhibit any pharmacological activity, there are no risks for workers or consumers.

13. Will the injection leave any traces?

The product is administered sub-cutaneously in the neck, behind the ear. No particular problems related to the injection are to be expected if good practices are followed.

14. Operators that are processing IMPROVEST™-treated animals must develop, implement and maintain a control program to verify that boar taint in meat products derived from treated animals is effectively controlled; what are the key elements of such a quality control program?

The control program should include at least the following elements:

  • Accept only IMPROVEST™ pigs from certified farms.
  • Accept only IMPROVEST™ pigs accompanied by the Farm Declaration document or the Swine Information document (containing an equivalent statement) and exhibiting the IMPROVEST™ checkmark (check) tattoo character.
  • Maintain a current customer complaint record relating to pork off-odours
  • Investigate and take appropriate corrective and preventative measures on customer complaints.
  • Contact the IMPROVEST™ Specialist in cases where boar taint related to pigs which have been treated with IMPROVEST™ is detected.
  • Any pig, whether boar or barrow, exhibiting boar taint will be considered a boar and current CFIA policy relating to boars will apply.
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