Gorts Gouda Cheese Outbreak Continues to Grow

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Additional E. Coli O157:H7 Illness from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Surfaces

BY NEWS DESK | NOVEMBER 15, 2013

One additional E. coli illness that occurred in September has been linked to Gort’s Gouda Cheese, a manufacturer of raw cheese in British Columbia, Canadaa.

In total, 28 cases have now been reported in connection with the outbreak. One elderly woman from Vernon, B.C., died in August as a result of her infection after eating the cheese.

The outbreak appears to be over, given that no new cases have developed since September. Provincial health authorities have also considered the epidemiological investigation over.

The total number ill by province is as follows:

Alberta (10 illnesses), British Columbia (13), Manitoba (2), Quebec (1), and Saskatchewan (2).

After authorities suspended production at the dairy, Gort’s agreed to adapt some of its operations and was cleared to restart production on Oct. 18.

© Food Safety News

HACCPCanada advocates and mandates HACCP System Certification; with an emphasis on providing Food Safety Confidence to the Consumer. We are a Certifying Body (an independent & impartial national organization which evaluates and verifies HACCP systems) and have succeeded in furnishing an economical, effective and expedient Certification Process for the Retail Food Supply Chain including Non-Registered Manufacturing, Warehousing, Logistics, Restaurants and Retail Food Outlets.

Contact us to achieve Certification from HACCPCanada, today!

 

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Pork Producers Agree to Phase Out Gestation Crates Across All of Canada

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BY NEWS DESK | JUNE 4, 2013
An agreement between the Canadian Pork Council and the National Animal Care Council will phase out the use of all gestation stalls for pregnant sows in Canada by the year 2024.

Animal welfare advocates have long opposed the use of gestation crates, which has been a common practice in both the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian hog housing agreement endorses blunt trauma for euthanasia including the practice know as “piglet thumping,” but bans the use of a gunshot to the head.

Under the agreement, all new barns constructed after July 1, 2014 will use open housing for gestating stalls where sows can be kept for 28 days after insemination plus up to seven more days as they are moved to open housing. All of these conditions are elements of a Canadian agreement to settle so-called hog housing issues, which is now open for public comment.

The agreement does not include any further restrictions on distances that hogs may be hauled, and tail docking and castration are still allowed with new provisions for controlling the pain those practices might cause. Tooth removal is restricted to only overly aggressive piglets that might cause damage to other animals. Finally, experts on the agreement say boars cannot be injured while stopping them from fighting during transport.
The comment period on the agreement will run for the next 60 days.

In the U.S., animal welfare activists have sought both state-by-state bans on the use of gestation crates and more recently the volunteer enlistment of  restaurants and retailers in a campaign not to buy pork from farms that use the devices. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s , Applebee’s, Subway, Wienerschnitzel, Oscar Mayer, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Chili’s and IHOP are among the businesses promising to eliminate the small cages used to confine breeding pigs from their own pork supply chains.

Canada’s agreement is betting on the phase-in period being enough to offset industry concerns about cost while satisfying consumers and animal welfare advocates.  The draft code calls for housing gilts in groups prior to breeding and then housing gilts and sows by size. From weaning to mating, the draft code suggests sows can be kept in individual stalls or in groups. The changes impact barn design and how much space is dedicated to each animal.

For all housing newly built or rebuilt or brought into use for the first time after July 1, 2014, mated gilts and sows must be housed in groups, according to the draft.  The public comment period extends through Aug. 3, 2013. The final pig Code of Practice is expected to be released before the end of 2013.

© Food Safety News

 

ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT SALMONELLA A RARE BUT ‘GROWING CONCERN’ IN CANADA

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From the Food Safety News
BY JAMES ANDREWS | JUNE 3, 2013
Antibiotic resistance among species of Salmonella remains an extremely rare phenomenon in Canadian health, but it’s a “growing concern” worth monitoring, according to a new study led by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada published in the June 2013 edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The resistant strains also do not appear to be coming from food sold in Canada, but are instead brought back with Canadians who travel to Africa.Between 2003 and 2009, Canadian health agencies collected a total of 76 samples of a Salmonella serotype known as Salmonella Kentucky from people who had fallen ill and sought medical attention. Out of those samples, 23 (or 30 percent) were resistant to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinoline antibiotic and the fifth most commonly prescribed antibiotic for humans in the United States.

Those 23 Salmonella Kentucky isolates, as it turned out, made up 66 percent of the 35 ciprofloxacin-resistant strains of Salmonella analyzed during that time period. Worth noting, however, is that health labs performed susceptibility testing on 21,426 nontyphoidal Salmonella isolates during the six-year period, meaning ciprofloxacin resistance was present in 0.16 percent of samples.

On a positive note, no ciprofloxacin-resistant strains have been found in Canadian retail meat samples, and no cases of ciprofloxacin-resistant Salmonella infections have yet been reported in the U.S.

Ciprofloxacin resistance in Salmonella does not touch on the issue of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed, either, as veterinary fluoroquinolines are only legally prescribed to treat respiratory infections in cattle and swine. The study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Mulvey, told Food Safety News that his agency has seen no evidence that ciprofloxacins are being used for non-therapeutic purposes in agriculture animals.

So, where are these resistant cases coming from?

Of the 23 cases of resistant Salmonella infection monitored, researchers were able to track down the travel histories of 11 patients. Each patient, as it turned out, had traveled to an African country within a week of developing symptoms.

Similar ciprofloxacin-resistant cases have cropped up across Europe after travel to countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Libya.

The Canadian study did not look into the use of ciprofloxacins in African agriculture.

Many of the ciprofloxacin-resistant strains were also resistant to other classes of antibiotics, further complicating treatment options, Mulvey said.

Though the issue of ciprofloxacin-resistant Salmonella appears to be more of an African problem for the time being, Canada has had experience with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella getting into food in the past.

In 2003, Quebec began seeing a resistance to cephalosporin develop in strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in humans linked to poultry and retail chicken meat. The Quebec broiler industry decided to voluntarily cease use of cephalosporins on chickens in 2005, which led to a “dramatic decrease” in rates of resistance, the study said.

“Once bacteria become resistant, the drugs used to cure the bacterial infection no longer work or are less effective,” Mulvey said. “In addition, the lack of new antibiotics in development is of serious concern.”

© Food Safety News

HACCPCanada advocates and mandates HACCP System Certification; with an emphasis on providing Food Safety Confidenceto the Consumer. We are a Certifying Body (an independent & impartial national organization which evaluates and verifies HACCP systems) and have succeeded in furnishing an economical, effective and expedient Certification Process for the Retail Food Supply Chain including Non-Registered Manufacturing, Warehousing, Logistics, Restaurants and Retail Food Outlets.

Contact us to achieve Certification from HACCPCanada, today!

 

Canada Adopts New Federal Food Safety Law

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has won the unanimous consent of the House of Commons for Canada’s new federal food safety law.  With its earlier passage by the Senate, that means the Safe Food for Canadians Act, Bill S-11, now becomes law with the routine “Royal Assent.”

Unanimous votes among the 308 Members of Parliament (MPs) in Commons are not seen often in Ottawa and Canada’s multiple parties rarely agree on anything but the crisis at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta helped bring unity for the food safety law sought by the Prime Minister’s government.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the new federal law:

  • makes food as safe as possible for Canadian families;
  • protects consumers by targeting unsafe practices;
  • implements tougher penalties for activities that put health and safety at risk;
  • provides better control over imports;
  • institutes a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities; and strengthens food traceability.

Additionally, CFIA outlined the improved food safety oversight, better legislative authority, and improved access to international markets as advantages of the new law. Specifically the agency said the new law promises:

1. Improved food safety oversight to better protect consumers/New prohibitions against food commodity tampering, deceptive practices and hoaxes

“This legislation provides new authorities to address immediate food safety risks and builds additional safety into the system, from producer or importer to consumer. For example, the new prohibitions provide a stronger deterrent against deceptive practices, tampering and hoaxes. Related penalties and fines also increase to deter willful or reckless threats to health and safety.”

Strengthened food traceability

“Current legislation does not require food manufacturers and other regulated parties to have traceability systems. The legislation provides the CFIA with strengthened authorities to develop regulations related to tracing and recalling food, and the appropriate tools to take action on potentially unsafe food commodities. This includes a prohibition against selling food commodities that have been recalled.”

Improved import controls

“Imports are challenging to control because there is less information on or direct control over foreign manufacturing processes and products. The legislation strengthens import controls by including powers to register or license importers and prohibits the importation of unsafe food commodities. Holding importers accountable for the safety of imported products will also promote a level playing field between importers and domestic producers.”

2. Streamlined and strengthened legislative authorities/Modernization and simplification of existing food safety legislation

“Consolidating diverse food commodity provisions into one Act addresses commitments made in the 2007 Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan and responds to the 2009 recommendation of the Weatherill Report to “modernize and simplify federal legislation and regulations that significantly affect food safety” in Canada.

“The government concurred and later reconfirmed its commitment to update food safety legislation in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. Further, the report, “Action on Weatherill Recommendations to Strengthen the Food Safety System: Final Report to Canadians”, stated that this Government was developing a new food safety bill. With the adoption of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, the Government of Canada has met its commitment to enhance Canada’s food safety system.”

Aligned inspection and enforcement powers

“Existing CFIA food commodity statutes contain inconsistencies in inspection and enforcement authorities. Consolidating diverse provisions and authorities into one Act aligns inspection and enforcement powers, making them consistent across all food commodities, enabling inspectors to be more efficient, and fostering even higher rates of compliance for industry. As a result, consumers will enjoy a safer food supply.”

3. Enhanced international market opportunities for Canadian industry

Authority to certify food commodities for export

“In recent years, more countries have required that the foods they import be certified, reflecting an international effort to ensure food safety. The legislation provides the authority to certify all food commodities for export, allowing the CFIA to treat exported food commodities consistently.”

The new law consolidates food provisions of previously existing statutes, the Food and Drugs Act, the Fish Inspection Act, the Meat Inspection Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act into the single Safe Food for Canadians Act.

The Food and Drugs Act will continue to exist separately, providing overarching protection for consumers from any foods that are unsuitable for consumption, including those marketed exclusively within provinces.

Canada’s update of federal food safety law comes two years after the U.S. Congress passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). It gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers for regulating food and beverages that fall under its jurisdiction. FDA is working on implementing the new law, but has so far not been able to get drafted regulations approved by the Executive Office of Management and Budget (OBM).

© Food Safety News

A Made-in-Canada Solution to E. coli O157 Outbreaks

BY B. BRETT FINLAY | NOVEMBER 2, 2012

OPINION

The recent largest beef recall in Canadian history and its resulting economic and health consequences illustrates the complexities and difficulties associated with Canadian beef safety. However, there is currently a simple, unused, practical and economically viable solution to avoiding such beef recalls as well as preventing E. coli O157 outbreaks — we should vaccinate cattle against E. coli O157:H7. Research shows this Canadian-discovered and commercialized vaccine would significantly decrease O157 in cattle and reduce the subsequent human health problems.

E. coli is a bacterium that is found in the intestines of all people, and is the best-studied free living organism, being used for recombinant DNA work, biotechnology, and many other uses. However, there are certain strains of E. coli that have acquired additional DNA that encode the ability to cause human disease, including meningitis, urinary tract infections or diarrhea, and in the case of O157, severe diarrhea which can progress to a fatal kidney disease called hemolytic uremic syndrome, and long-term consequences including brain damage and chronic kidney failure.

Several years ago, our laboratory at UBC discovered how O157 adheres to intestinal cells. With this knowledge, we considered the unorthodox concept of vaccinating cattle to prevent human disease.

Approximately half of all cattle carry O157 in their intestines, although it causes no disease in cattle. Virtually all human disease come from cattle carrying O157, either through direct contamination of processed meat, (current recall) or by using irrigation water that contains cattle fecal contamination (eg. spinach recall) or as a drinking water supply, as in the Walkerton outbreak. We know that decreasing O157 in cattle would decrease human disease.

In collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, we did experimental trials in which we vaccinated cattle which proved very effective in blocking O157 shedding.

Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. is an Ontario company that licensed the technology and did vaccine studies in thousands of cattle to show vaccine efficacy. The vaccine worked extremely well, showing there is a 99-per-cent reduction in bacteria shed in the feces and a 71-per-cent reduction in the proportion of animals shedding. It even caused decreased O157 levels in unvaccinated cattle when they were in pens with vaccinated animals. The vaccine, called Econiche, was commercially approved for use in Canada in 2008.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons the vaccine has not been used. The vaccine costs $3 per dose, and it requires two doses per animal. Farmers have no incentive to ask their vet to vaccinate their cattle, as it doesn’t cause disease in cattle. They also have no financial incentive to spend this additional amount on the vaccine, as there is no current way to recoup this expense.

There have been several independent scientific studies showing that if a vaccine was used, it would be very effective in vastly decreasing, if not eliminating O157 from processed beef.

Moreover, the cost to vaccinate all 12.5 million cattle in Canada would be approximately $50 million, yet the current yearly cost for health care related expenses due to human O157 illness is over $200 million — not counting deaths. This does not include the large commercial expenses associated with beef recalls, food inspections and the negative international press associated with O157 recalls and outbreaks.

This vaccine is the first in the world and represents a major opportunity to block O157 at the “preharvest” stage. Nearly all current control measures now used occur during processing or during inspections and sampling post-harvest.

All data show the vaccine is a highly effective measure, yet it is not being used. To implement the vaccine, it will take both agricultural and health ministries in provincial and federal governments to participate, as well as a concerted effort by farmers and beef processors to implement the vaccine. Some of the cost could even be passed along to consumers to ensure safer beef products.

All studies show the vaccine is completely safe, both for cattle and humans, extremely effective and makes strong economic and business sense, saving governments at least $150 million per year. There will always be O157 in beef until the vaccine is adopted and no amount of inspectors will detect all O157. The time is now to implement this unique made-in-Canada solution to avoid future recalls, outbreaks, human disease and death, and give Canadian beef a much improved image worldwide.

© Food Safety News

 

New Federal Food Safety Law Advances in Canada with Senate Action

On the heels of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak spanning four provinces and the nation’s largest beef recall, Ottawa has sprung into action on pending food safety legislation.

Stalled since last spring, the Safe Food for Canadians Act was adopted by mid-week by the 108-member Senate. It will not become law in Canada unless it passes the dominant branch of Canada’s Parliament, the House of Commons.

“Canadian consumers have always been our Government’s top priority when it comes to food safety,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “This legislation demonstrates the Harper Government’s commitment to strengthening Canada’s food safety system and we hope this legislative is passed expeditiously by Members of Parliament.”

The Safe Food for Canadian Act, S-11, shares some of the same goals as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress in the United States almost two years ago.

Under the law passed by the Red Chamber, as Canada’s Senate is sometimes called, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would acquire greater powers to compel food producers to provide information in a timely and standardized manner and to impose traceability systems on food producers.

Prime Minister Harper’s government requested the legislation. His Conservative Party has controlled Canada’s federal government since 2006. The bill also imposes tougher penalties for intentional activity that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk, requires a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities and imposes better controls over imports and exports.

The current E. coli outbreak involving a large beef plant at Brooks, Alberta is the most serious food safety crisis faced by the Harper Government since the 2008 Listeria outbreak linked to meat from Maple Leaf Foods.

© Food Safety News

 

JBS Takes Over Suspended Brooks Plant; CFIA Prepares Recommendations

BY DAN FLYNN | OCTOBER 19, 2012 FoodSafetyNews.com

The biggest beef recall in Canada’s history was eclipsed within a few hours this week by a new management agreement shifting control and potentially the ownership of the troubled Brooks, Alberta plant to the world’s biggest beef company, JBS of Brazil.

Brooks’ Mayor Martin Shields immediately said it was positive news that means the processing plant will soon be back in operation. Union representatives also praised the move despite the fact a JBS spokesman said it will include a review of the labor situation.

But while waiting for the new management team to arrive from JBS’s North American headquarters at Greeley, CO, food safety officials in Canada were talking about what has to happen over the “coming days.”

Beef from the idled Alberta plant has been named as the source of 15 E. coli O157:H7 infections among Canadians in four provinces. While as much as 2.5 million pounds of the recalled Canadian beef crossed the U.S. border before it was closed to XL product, no E. coli illnesses in the U.S. have been linked to the recall.

The management agreement means that JBS will immediately take over the operations of XL Foods Inc. in Alberta, including the 70,000-head capacity feedlot and associated ranch lands and the processing and packing plants at Calgary and Alberta with capacities of 1,000 and 4,000 head, respectively

During the coming six-month option period, JBS will run the Alberta facilities and XL will continue to operate two U.S. properties that are also part of the deal, a 1,200-head-per-day packing plant at Omaha, NE and a 1,000-head-per-day packing plant at Nampa, ID.

If JBS pulls the trigger on the deal, XL will get $100 million, half in JBS stock and half in cash. JBS will not assume any XL debt or liabilities. The privately held XL Foods is Canada’s second largest meat packing company.

Beef industry experts in the U.S. say that before the recall those facilities might have fetched $300 million.

XL’s license to operate in Brooks was suspended Sept. 27. By that date XL had exported potentially contaminated beef to more than 20 counties, including the United States, from the plant.

Even before the JBS/XL management agreement was announced, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was allowing some limited operation, while assuring the public no meat would be allowed out of the packing plant for consumption until its safety was guaranteed.

The closed slaughterhouse has idled at least 2,200 workers and forced Canadian cattlemen to delay taking cattle to market. About 800 XL employees were called back to work on beef carcasses that were being used in the investigation.

Over the coming days, CFIA says it plans to thoroughly review its observations of deboning and cutting activities, specific E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall plant sanitization. It then plans to issue a report with recommendations on next steps.

CFIA says that after cutting the carcasses that were in the plant when operations were suspended, personnel monitored the disposal of the meat to a rendering plant. It will continue such oversight and says no XL meat will enter the food system.

“The plant will not be permitted to resume normal operations until the CFIA confirms in writing that it is safe to do so,” the agency said in a statement.

The mid-week management announcement was a surprise to everyone outside JBS and XL, but the companies had apparently started talking some time ago.

During the past decade, JBS has emerged as the world’s largest beef producer, largely through acquisitions that left it with a $7.5 billion debt. But it is also flush with cash because in Brazil beef is raised mostly on grass, not expensive corn and other grains.

JBS has 135,000 employees worldwide and operates 301 production facilities. By picking up the XL facilities, JBS will add 7,200 head per day to its North American capacity, raising its total to 36,050 head per day. That would move JBS from No. 3 in North America to No. 1, ahead of both Cargill (with 30,000) and Tyson Foods (with 29,900).

JBS teams were immediately sent to Brooks and Calgary to take over management of the Canadian facilities. A JBS spokesman said the company is “well positioned” to assist with food safety issues.

© Food Safety News

 

German Schoolkids Outbreak Source Identified

 

 

Chinese Strawberries Sickened Thousands of German Students

BY NEWS DESK | OCTOBER 9, 2012

Those frozen strawberries that were “very likely” the cause of food poisoning that sickened more than 11,000 German schoolchildren were very certainly grown in China.

China is now the world’s biggest exporter of strawberries, and those going to German schools were grown in China’s province of Shangdong. The Chinese strawberries were then transported by ship to Hamburg where, after a month at sea, the 44-ton order was delivered to Sodexo, a large food distributor that sells to German schools.

More than 11,000 youngsters attending schools and day cares were sickened throughout eastern German, with 32 requiring hospitalization. About 500 schools were involved in the outbreak.

A spokesman for a German consumer organization said Sodexo likely sought out the Chinese strawberries because they were cheap. German schools charge parents, not the federal government, for student meals. Meals typically cost families between 1.50 and 4 euros.

While the symptoms experienced by thousands of German children this fall were consistent with norovirus infection, authorities are not yet sure what contaminated the strawberries or at what point in the production chain the contamination occurred.

© Food Safety News

 

 

10,000 School Kids Sickened

Food Source Might Be Responsible for 10,000 German Illnesses

BY NEWS DESK | OCT 03, 2012

 As many as 10,000 German school children stricken since Friday by a vomiting virus may be suffering from eating cafeteria food, health authorities say.

While the investigation is far form over, attention has focused on the food services company called Sodexo that supplies cafeteria food to many schools and day care centers in areas of German experiencing the outbreak.
Berlin health officials expect most children will recover from the norovirus symptoms within a few days, but in the meantime the young people are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, fever, and head and body aches.
Laboratory testing is currently underway to determine the cause of the massive outbreak of illnesses.  The prestigious Robert Koch Institute has told the media that a single food supplier did serve all the schools and day care facilities reporting illnesses.
Until the source of the virus is found and the outbreak is over, German school and pre-school children are being encouraged to pack their own lunches.
Children who are ill are being told to remain hydrated and to avoid sugary beverages because such drinks can make the symptoms of diarrhea worse.
A task force of state and national officials was set up on Friday to investigate the cause of the illnesses, as the number of sick German school children grew rapidly,
The Robert-Koch Institute told the newspaper Die Welt that the ill children attend schools and pre-schools in Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner said the goal was “to find the cause of the illnesses as soon as possible and to stop its entry into the food chain.”
A spokesman for Sodexo said less than five percent of the schools it serves has sick children. He said the cause of the illnesses may be a norovirus that is not food related.
 “The reason that almost all of the children ate food from our kitchens is simply because we deliver food to a lot of schools. We hope that the children feel better soon,” he said.,
However, the Robert-Koch-Institute told Die Welt that it stood to reason that the children were suffering from a food-borne illness, and that some of them had tested positive for the norovirus.
The norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea , is highly contagious, and can be transmitted by contaminated food or water, infected people, or contaminated surfaces.
Some German schools have closed as a precautionary measure.

© Food Safety News

Consumer Groups Ask USDA to Halt Pilot Program to Lessen Canadian Border Inspection

 

BY HELENA BOTTEMILLER | SEP 19, 2012

CFIAflag_iphone.jpgSome members of the Safe Food Coalition are voicing concerns about a pilot program that would eliminate traditional border inspection of certain meat products coming from Canada, arguing that the move could compromise food safety.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, Food & Water Watch, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumers League said they were surprised and concerned to learn that the Beyond the Border Action Plan — a joint declaration by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to enhance trade between the U.S. and Canada —  included a pilot program that impacted food safety. The groups said there are “too many unanswered questions” about how the program would work.

The meat import pilot, which would be jointly run by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, seeks “alternative methods” for border inspection of certain meat products imported from Canada into the United States.

According to FSIS, the initial pilot is narrow in scope, only including a “small number” of Canadian establishments that export fresh beef and pork products directly to FSIS-inspected establishments for further processing. The companies must conduct regular business across the U.S.-Canada border and have a consistent compliance history when it comes to food safety issues like microbiological or chemical contamination. The agency is planning to use the results of the pilot, in September 2013, to determine whether some of the plants can be considered for a pre-clearance process.

In their letter, consumer groups argue that eliminating the step of inspecting meat before it enters the United States could put consumers at risk. They point out that Canada has a higher incidence of foodborne illness than the United States, citing estimates that nearly one in three percent of Canadians are sickened by food annually compared to one in six in the United States.

The letter also points out that in the past Canada has had problems with meeting U.S equivalency standards. In 2005, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General raised “serious concerns” about the Canadian system and in 2008, the IG recommended that port-of-entry meat inspection be strengthened.

The letter comes right as Canada and the United States coordinate large recall of ground beef products from a Canadian meat processor after FSIS found several positive test results for E. coli O157:H7.

The groups attached several photos to their letter, which they say depict damaged meat shipments, visible feces on meat products, and toxic chemicals shipped alongside meat products that were all caught at the border by traditional inspection and sent back to Canada.

“We respectfully request that the border inspection pilot be halted,” concludes the letter. “We cannot discern any serious ration for its implementation. The current border inspection system works and provides a high level of protection for U.S. consumers from tainted imported meat.”

Former Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond told Food Safety News that while he believes border inspection acts as a “deterrent to the few that try and cut corners,” he is more worried about a rumor that FSIS might be reducing the frequency of foreign food safety system audits — from an annual basis to once every two to three years — to help with budget constraints. He suggested consumer groups pay more attention to the issue.

“I do not support eliminating border inspections if that is the very intent,” added Raymond. “But I would have to ask [Food & Water Watch] where they would cut 8 percent from the FSIS budget then — it is a fair question.”

Most discretionary programs are slated to take an 8 percent, across the board cut as of the first of the year after Congress failed to reach a deficit reduction deal last year. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, FSIS would take an $86 million cut next year.

The letter, which includes photos, is available here.

© Food Safety News