The product recalls and temporary shut-down of the Lakeside Packers facility of XL Foods in September, 2012 hit the industry particularly hard and will likely have ramifications for a long time to come. The beef recalls and illnesses among some consumers surrounding the Alberta-based company likely make it the largest recall scenario in Canadian history.
But whether you get your favourite protein from the beef cooler at a major supermarket or directly from your favourite farmers’ market, what happens when your beef, chicken or lamb makes the transition from animal to food?
We think you should know a bit more about that process, so here are a few notes on the issue of meat inspection.
The role of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is to ensure that meat and poultry products leaving federally-inspected establishments are safe for human consumption, including products imported into the country. Your meats might be inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Regardless, all abattoirs and meat processing facilities fall under either provincial or federal jurisdiction. Any meat product that is destined for transport between Canadian provinces or to be exported out of the country must be inspected in a federally registered establishment.
About 95 percent of animals slaughtered in Canada are slaughtered in federally registered establishments. The rest are processed in provincially registered facilities. What many people might not realize is that inspectors, regardless of their provincial or federal status, are on site and monitoring at facilities on any day when meats are being processed.
Their mandate, in terms of national inspections, is to “verify that meat products produced domestically in federally-registered establishments are safe and wholesome and meet our federal standards as dictated by the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Meat Inspections Act, as well as all regulations that stem from them,” according to officials at the CFIA.
Inspectors follow what is called a compliance verification system in carrying out their duties. They collect samples for microbiological testing for pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli and perform reviews of company documents, records and test results.
The carcasses of slaughtered animals are routinely inspected to ensure Act compliance and include the monitoring of employee hygiene, operational sanitation, temperature requirements throughout the process as well as the cleanliness of transport containers used to ship the meat to stores and restaurants.
The CFIA also:
- monitors registered and non-registered establishments for labelling compliance and audits the delivery of a grading program based on objective standards of meat quality and retail yield;
- registers and inspects slaughter and processing establishments of meat products destined for inter-provincial or international trade;
- inspects and grades exports and meat products for inter-provincial trade;
- inspects imported meat products;
- registers and verifies process, formula, labelling policy and program development;
- verifies that food advertising complies with requirements;
- inspects and enforces retail label regulations;
- performs residue testing.
It’s good to be aware of these processes and operations and who’s monitoring them: we need to watch the watchers.
For more information, visit CFIA.