Archived - New Testing and Labelling Safeguards at Federal Meat Plants

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As part of the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has put in place additional safeguards at federally-registered meat plants. These new requirements were published on May 17, 2013 and will come into effect on July 2, 2013. This will provide plants with the time necessary to adjust control plans and protocols. These new requirements, as well as increased CFIA testing and oversight, will help to further minimize the risk of potentially unsafe meat products entering the Canadian marketplace.

New requirements for industry:

Industry is responsible for producing safe food that meets Canada's federal food safety rules and regulations. All federally-registered meat plants are required to have preventive plans in place that anticipate where contamination may occur and outline control measures to address specific risks.

Some of the new requirements that will help to strengthen those controls include:

  • Federally-registered plants that make beef trim, ground beef and beef patties will be mandated to develop a protocol outlining how they will review and respond to trends in their E. coli O157:H7 test results. When a trend indicates unusual patterns or higher than usual numbers of positive test results, the plant must immediately take action, inform the CFIA and adjust their food safety protocols.
  • Plants that make ground beef or beef patties will also have to conduct additional testing. When the testing indicates bacteria are above acceptable levels, plants will need to take action to ensure the continued safety of the product. While bacteria are part of our natural environment and foods, the levels must be kept low through hygienic processes and practices. For example, an establishment may divert the product from the processing line and send it to cooking. Cooking beef to appropriate temperatures for a minimum length of time will kill off any harmful bacteria.
  • Federally-registered plants that mechanically tenderize beef cuts intended for retail sale, such as steaks and roasts, must now label those products as being tenderized and with cooking instructions for Canadian consumers.
  • During food safety investigations, plants will now be required to provide production and distribution information, when requested by the CFIA, by a specific deadline and in a useable format.

Increased CFIA testing and oversight:

In the same way that operators of registered establishments sample and test their products on an ongoing basis, sampling and testing is also used by the CFIA to verify that plant controls are working. This is over and above any sampling and testing conducted by a plant.

The following enhanced oversight activities will build on the CFIA's current risk-based inspection strategy:

  • The CFIA will increase its sampling and testing frequency for E. coli O157:H7 in plants that make beef trim. This is over and above sampling and testing conducted by the plant.
  • From April to October, when a higher occurrence of E. coli is commonly observed, the CFIA will further intensify its testing frequency. Frequency will be based on the production volume of the plant. For example, in large plants, samples will be collected and tested weekly.
  • The CFIA will increase the number of overall samples taken per year per plant. Increased sampling will be based on risk factors such as production volume, a plant's track record and the level of risk associated with the specific product.
  • Plants will be required to conduct follow-up testing when the CFIA identifies a positive test result in any sample of ground beef and beef patties. This follow-up testing will verify the effectiveness of plant controls. The number of follow-up samples to be tested will be based on the size of the plant.
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