U.S. regulations forcing more meat inspections in Canada

"The USDA stepped in, and said, 'What's going on, it's always been a requirement, why aren't you doing it?' " he said of a 12-hour inspection cycle. "They have to do every 12 hours to have access to the U.S. market. It's as simple as that. There's no work around that, they can try and talk the Americans out of it. If that's their goal, it's not been successful."

The Vancouver Sun
March 15, 2010

U.S. regulations forcing more meat inspections in Canada
Sarah Schmidt

MapleLeafFoods.jpg

A woman works to sterilize meat processing and packaging equipment at the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto August 21, 2008. Photograph by: Mark Blinch, Reuters

OTTAWA— The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is scrambling to maintain an increased presence at dozens of large meat-processing plants after auditors from the United States Department of Agriculture found inspections were too infrequent to meet U.S. food-safety standards, newly released internal records show.

News of ongoing resource problems at CFIA comes as public-health authorities are carrying out a high-profile listeriosis investigation involving tainted meat at a federally inspected Toronto processing plant operated by Siena Foods Ltd.

The ramped-up inspection cycle of at least one visit for every 12 hours of production was instituted last November so operators in Canada, including Siena Foods, could continue to export their products to the United States. These plants are also authorized to distribute their products across the country.

Siena Foods has now been blamed for producing tainted salami and prosciutto dating back to last December that put two people in the hospital. Both have since recovered from their bout of listeriosis, Ontario's chief medical officer said Friday while confirming the genetic match to the Siena meat.

Since then, Siena Foods Ltd. and CFIA has announced the recall of three additional Siena meat products for possible listeria-monocytogenes contamination — Siena-brand Coppa, Prosciuttini and Prosciuttini Hot in packages weighing approximately 300- to 400-grams, with best-before dates of June 20, 21 or 22 of this year.

The company also stopped production at its facility this weekend and is working with CFIA inspectors to sanitize the plant.

This is the first time a facility has shut down since Canada was rocked in the summer of 2008 with a deadly listeriosis outbreak linked to Maple Leaf Foods deli meats.

The additional inspection coverage for 80 plants, instituted just weeks before the first Siena recall in December, "will allow us to better meet the USDA's technical requirements for products exported to the U.S.," Cameron Prince, CFIA's vice-president of operations, wrote to meat-inspection staff last November.

The correspondence and a two-page backgrounder, detailing how no meat inspector "will be required to work an unreasonable amount of overtime per workday or per week," was obtained by the agriculture union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

President Bob Kingston said the ramped-up inspections at meat-processing plants, including the Siena facility, were instituted after being notified of system-wide shortcomings last fall by auditors of the USDA's Food and Inspection Service.

"The USDA stepped in, and said, 'What's going on, it's always been a requirement, why aren't you doing it?' " he said of a 12-hour inspection cycle.

"They have to do every 12 hours to have access to the U.S. market. It's as simple as that. There's no work around that, they can try and talk the Americans out of it. If that's their goal, it's not been successful."

After initially relying on volunteers to work overtime at plants to meet the demands of the U.S. regulator, the extra shifts are now mandatory because of a chronic shortage of meat inspectors, said Kingston.

"Our members have had it. They need some relief here."

In the internal memo to staff, Prince said the agency recognizes it "will need to hire additional inspection staff" to meet the U.S. rules.

"The CFIA continues to explore funding options as we refine how we deliver these food safety enhancements. In the short term, we will be looking to our current inspection staff to work hours in addition to their regularly scheduled shifts."

In a statement, the agency said there is an additional $13 million in this year's budget to hire new staff meet the USDA 12-hour rule, which it considers a reinterpretation of policy. This means CFIA can hire approximately 100 new inspectors for meat and poultry facilities over the coming year.

This is above and beyond the 70 inspectors, to be hired over the next years. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced those new hires in response to a scathing report into the state of food safety in Canada, carried out by independent investigator Sheila Weatherill in the wake of the August 2008 listeriosis outbreak.

In her final report released last July, Weatherill painted a picture of over-burdened meat inspectors.

In response to a query about the new demands placed on CFIA, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service in a statement said it conducts annual audits "to ensure that any nation exporting meat to the U.S. have a meat-inspection system that is equivalent to that in the U.S." and "to assess whether it is being effectively implemented. We are in the process of analyzing information from our most recent Canadian audit."

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/regulations+forcing+more+meat+inspections+Canada/2684056/story.html


Brought to you by WikidFranchise.org

Risks: Food poisoning causing injury or death, Listeriosis, Canada, 20100315 US regulations

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License