Calgary Herald

Ottawa to remove ‘irritants’ from meat inspection rules


The federal government is set to overhaul Canada’s meat inspection rules to get rid of “irritants,” saying the plan will help smaller businesses and align Canadian regulation­s with U.S. policies, without lowering foodsafety standards.

The proposed “substantiv­e” changes to federal meat inspection regulation­s, to be officially published today, will afford greater “flexibilit­y” for companies to meet Canada’s food-safety benchmarks by replacing some “prescripti­ve” requiremen­ts with “outcome-based” ones.

“The proposed amendments will not modify food safety standards,” the background­er emphasizes, saying the changes are about simplifyin­g requiremen­ts so small- and mediumsize­d businesses that operate non-federally registered slaughter houses or meat-processing plants can meet the requiremen­ts to become federally registered.

Unless a facility is federally registered, operators of provincial­ly registered plans can’t sell their meat products outside their home province and cannot export to the United States or elsewhere.

“The proposed amendments would also assist Canada in enhancing its alignment with major trading partners such as the United States,” the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s proposal states.

Bob Kingston, president of the union representi­ng meat inspectors at the CFIA, says he supports the impetus behind the proposal — to help smaller businesses, including one-room family-run operations, that can’t meet prescripti­ve federal rules designed for large factories.

But the head of the Agricultur­e Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada warned of possible issues with how the amended regulation­s are implemente­d.

“Anytime you have latitude and discretion, there’s a potential for abuse, so that’s why we’re going to look closely at the guidelines and training materials that go along with it,” Kingston said.

Rick Holley, a professor of food science at the University of Manitoba, said he supports in principle the attempt to bring provincial­ly inspected meat plants under the federal inspection system.

“It’s always going to be about the execution,” Holley said after reviewing the proposed regulatory amendments that he says “relax” many of the so-called bureaucrat­ic regulation­s characteri­stic of federally registered plants.

One industry source familiar with the CFIA’S 17 pilot projects, launched in 2010 to probe the challenges encountere­d by smaller businesses in meeting federal meat hygiene requiremen­ts and to test ways to achieve the same food safety outcomes in establishm­ents of different sizes, says his technical advisers have concerns. “They didn’t like this initiative because it is lowering standards and they are uncomforta­ble with the science,” he said, citing the example of allowing the butchering of wild game in the same facility.

To allow for “greater flexibilit­y” in the types of activities that can be carried out within a registered establishm­ent, the CFIA is proposing to permit into registered plants carcasses for food animals slaughtere­d elsewhere — as long as a private veterinari­an performs an ante-mortem examinatio­n and deems the animal fit to be slaughtere­d for food.

The proposed amendments also would clarify existing provisions that allow carcasses of muskox, caribou and reindeer, covered by a game animal inspection system, entry into registered establishm­ents.

As well, the proposed amendments would allow carcasses of game animals to be cut and boned inside a federally registered establishm­ent for private use by the hunter — as long as these activities are separate from the usual activities in the plant.

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