Canadians should feel confident that the meat they buy is safe. Food safety is the number one priority for the Canadian meat industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in laboratory testing, plant sanitation, equipment, conveyances, packaging, leading edge technology, research and development. Meat processing facilities employ professional food science and microbiology experts to manage their food safety programs and many firms have PhDs and veterinarians on staff.
Canada's meat industry is the most regulated sector of the food industry. It is governed intensely by Canada's Meat Inspection Act and Regulations and the highly prescriptive and comprehensive Manual of Procedures. Hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) is a standardized, internationally recognized approach to food safety. HACCP requires manufacturers to identify stages in production processes where problems are most likely to occur and to take action to prevent them. All federally regulated meat processing plants are subject to regular inspections and random audits by professional Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinarians and meat inspectors.
Major illnesses and deaths resulting from the consumption of meat are rare events in Canada. Over 100 million meals are consumed each and every day in this country and two thirds of those meals typically contain meat. The number of meat recalls in proportion to the volume of Canada's total meat production is small.
Recalls are a signal that the system is working. Most meat recalls are issued voluntarily by meat processors as a precautionary measure. Canadians who travel abroad know that they must be very careful about what they eat to stay healthy in many countries around the world - something we rarely worry about when in Canada.
Recognized around the world as one of the best, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency federal inspection system has allowed Canada to export meat to over 150 countries. Canadians should be proud of this reputation, and the Canadian Meat Council is committed to working with the CFIA on continuous improvement to maintain our international and domestic reputations.
The Canadian Meat Council has a Listeria Working Group for the Canadian industry that promotes adoption of best practices for the control of listeria; advocates for the approval of interventions for listeria control agents; and assists regulators in the development of sound new listeria control regulations. In addition, the Council will continue to deliver regular seminars and technical symposia for its members.
The Canadian Meat Council is advocating for an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act that would allow for the immediate acceptance in Canada of all antimicrobial agents currently approved by the European Union and by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The industry is asking also for the approval of new regulations that would permit the extension of food irradiation in Canada to include ground beef, poultry, and beef carcasses.