Canadian Tenderized Beef To Get New Safe-Cooking Labels

HACCPCanada Certification - Be InformedAgriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says better labels are part of food safety action plan

CBC News

Posted: May 17, 2013 9:03 AM CST  

Federally registered meat plants will be required to put new safe-cooking labels on mechanically tenderized beefFederally registered meat plants will be required to put new labels on mechanically tenderized beef in order to make it safer for consumers, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says.

Speaking in Saskatoon Friday, Ritz said the new rules for tenderized beef, expected to go into effect over the next two months, is part of a wide-ranging food safety action plan.

The government wants consumers to know that mechanically tenderized beef — such as steaks and roasts — needs to be thoroughly cooked to eliminate any risk of E. coli.

In addition to federally registered meat plants, supermarkets are also being encouraged to use warning labels.

There’s a heightened risk because the needles in tenderizing equipment can push E. coli into the interior of the meat. Such meat has to be thoroughly cooked to kill the microbes.

Last fall, at least 16 Canadians became ill from E. coli, sparking a massive recall of beef that came from from an XL Foods meat plant in Brooks, AB.

Mechanical tenderizing was done at the XL plant, raising concerns at the time that stricter rules were required. However, an inquiry into the plant situation did not find that tenderizing was specifically a cause of the E. coli outbreak.

Ritz said the changes will help, but he can’t guarantee large-scale recalls will not happen again.

“Certainly no one wants to see a repeat of the major recalls we’ve seen in this country,” he said.

“Can we guarantee there’ll never be any more? No. Anybody who tells you you can is lying to you.”

Ritz made his announcement in a Saskatoon grocery store, accompanied by officials from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who deal with meat safety and microbial hazards.

He said CFIA is strengthening some of its beef safety rules, and has put in new mandatory rules to fight E. coli problems in federally registered beef plants.

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!

 

Chicken Farmers of Canada Recognized for On-Farm HACCP Food Safety System

HACCPCanada Certification - Be Informed

March 19, 2013, Ottawa: Today, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz presented the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) with the first ever Letter of Recognition under the On-Farm Food Safety Recognition Program (OFFSRP).

“On behalf of the Harper Government I would like to congratulate the Chicken Farmers of Canada for the successful implementation of this food safety program,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “By working together to improve the management of food safety risks at the farm level, we are strengthening Canada’s food safety system.”

The CFC is the first national organization to achieve this recognition. “This is a major milestone for Chicken Farmers of Canada and a source of great pride in being the first commodity to receive this recognition,” said Dave Janzen, CFC Chair. “This achievement, and the program itself, demonstrates our commitment to meeting the expectations of consumers for safe, quality, Canadian chicken.”

The OFFSRP promotes the production of safe, high-quality food at the farm level and encourages national industry organizations to develop food safety systems in line with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles as defined by the Codex Alimentarius.

To qualify for the recognition, national industry organizations must assess their food safety practices against the HACCP principles and submit their food safety program to the CFIA for technical review. Once the food safety program is implemented, audited and assessed, the CFIA grants the recognition. The CFIA conducts ongoing maintenance reviews of the national industry organization’s food safety program to ensure it continues to meet the requirements of the OFFSRP.

The On-Farm Food Safety Recognition Program is a federal/provincial/territorial government initiative developed in collaboration with industry and funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada under Growing Forward.

HACCPCanada advocates and mandates HACCP System Certification; with an emphasis on providing Food Safety Confidence to the Consumer. We are a Third-Party Auditor and 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!

 

Ottawa Launches Review Into XL Foods E. coli Outbreak

HACCPCanada Certification - Be Informed

HACCPCanada advocates and mandates HACCP System Certification; with an emphasis on providing Food Safety Confidence to the Consumer. We are a Third-Party Auditor and 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!

Panel will report back to Agriculture Canada with recommendations on improving food safety

The Canadian Press/CBC News
Agriculture Canada says an independent panel of experts will review what contributed to the outbreak of E. coli at the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta.Agriculture Canada says an independent panel of experts will review what contributed to the outbreak of E. coli at the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The federal government has launched a review of the E. coli outbreak last fall that sickened 18 people and led to the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

The review is to focus on what contributed to the outbreak of the potentially deadly bacteria at the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta.

It will also look at how well the Canadian Food Inspection Agency performed, including why tainted meat was distributed to retailers and sold to consumers.

XL Foods Recall

Agriculture Canada said the review will be conducted by an independent panel of experts who are to hand in a report with recommendations to improve food safety.

“We take the safety of Canada’s food supply very seriously and we remain committed to the continuous improvement of Canada’s strong food safety systems,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a news release Friday evening.

Industry experts

At the time of the E. coli outbreak the XL Foods plant was the largest Canadian-owned beef slaughter facility in the country.

It is now owned and operated by JBS Food Canada, a subsidiary of JBS South America.

The federal government said the review panel includes recognized scientific, public health and meat industry experts.

They include Ronald Lewis, former chief veterinary officer for British Columbia; Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief public health officer for the Northwest Territories; and Ronald Usborne, a former executive with Caravelle Foods.

The review is to look at the design, implementation and oversight of food safety controls at the plant, including CFIA inspection policies, and how well testing information was shared by the company, inspectors and U.S. regulators.

The panel is to review the effectiveness of E. coli prevention protocols, including the ability to detect problems, recall beef products and how well the agency conducted followup investigations.

Federal documents have shown that CFIA inspectors issued six warnings to XL Foods about conditions in the plant between January 2012 and when the plant was temporarily shut down in September.

Some of the problems noted included improper sanitization of equipment, condensation dripping onto beef carcasses and containers overflowing with unsanitary water.

The agency said all of the problems cited were dealt with before the first cases of E. coli were found in beef produced at the plant.

The recall involved millions of tonnes of beef packaged in more than 2,000 different products across Canada and in many U.S. states.

The CFIA restored the plant’s operating licence on Oct. 23 and it was allowed to resume exports of beef products to the United States in December.

 

Harper Government About to Pass the Safe Food for Canadians Act

November 20, 2012, Ottawa: Canadian families will have a stronger food safety system with the anticipated passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, S-11, by Parliament, announced Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“Canadian families will be better protected by the passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will have stronger modernized tools to better protect Canadians and enhance industry compliance.”

Tabled in the Senate last June, the Safe Food for Canadians Act would improve food oversight by:

  • Instituting a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities;
  • Implementing tougher penalties for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk;
  • Giving inspectors an enhanced ability to compel food producers to provide information in a timely manner and standardized format;
  • Giving the CFIA the authority to require traceability systems for food producers and processors by way of regulation.
  • Providing better control over imports and exports; and
  • Strengthening food traceability throughout the value chain.

Together, these measures will help find products faster in recall situations so they can be removed from the shelves quicker and in a more comprehensive way.

The new legislation, if passed, would also implement tougher fines for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk. Previously, anyone convicted of a serious offence could have been fined up to a maximum of $250,000. Under the proposed legislation, penalties could be as high as $5,000,000, or in the case of the most serious offences, even higher at the court’s discretion. New penalties are also being added for recklessly endangering the lives of Canadians through tampering, deceptive practices or hoaxes.

The proposed legislation is the result of extensive consultation over a number of years with industry, consumer groups, provincial and territorial governments, and other stakeholders. The Act builds on the Harper Government’s commitment to address recommendations from the Weatherill Report and the commitments made in the 2010 Speech from the Throne.

For more information on the Safe Food for Canadians Act, contact the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342.

 

 

CBC News: Is Canada’s food safe?

Public health officials reported 6,800 cases of salmonella last year

A CBC News examination of Canada’s food safety record over the last decade reveals mixed results.

A decade ago, nearly 1,200 cases of E.coli per year were reported by the provinces.  The number shrunk to 428 in 2011, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.  But illnesses from salmonella are much higher in absolute terms.

Last year, public health officials reported 6,800 cases and 6,200 cases were reported in 2002.  Eight years later, the number jumped to 7,200, pointing to an upward trend.

Calgary father on dealing with E. coli

Robert Boschman’s daughter, Christie, was three years old when she got E. coli poisoning from eating cold cuts.  Boschman, an English professor at Mount Royal University, was out of town when he received a “hysterical” phone call from his then wife, Tracy.

So what happened to the once promising drug Synsorb?

In the late 1990s, Synsorb PK was a promising enough treatment for E. coli poisoning that it was often approved for emergency use for outbreaks in Canada and the United States, including Canada’s most serious outbreak in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000.

However, Synsorb PK was never approved and the company folded.

According to David Cox, the chief executive officer of Synsorb Biotech, early analysis of Synsorb PK suggested that it be given to children within six days of the onset of E. coli symptoms.  He said the results of the Phase 3 trials showed there wasn’t a compelling difference between patients who were treated with Synsorb PK and those who received a placebo.  What the trials did show was that if the children were treated within two days of onset, Cox said, there was a significant improvement with the drug.

“We had a choice at that point,” says Cox. “We could re-submit the drug for approval based on treating the children within two days. We would have new trials, essentially starting over.”

Cox said there were concerns about finding patients soon enough after they became sick, since many parents at first assume E. coli illness is simply a flu and may not get their children to the hospital within the two-day window.

“We ran the numbers and there didn’t seem to be enough of a chance we would get the patients. The trials would cost $30 to $40 million dollars and take a further six years.”

The company made the decision not to continue.  Their daughter Christie was at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with acute bloody diarrhea.  When he arrived at the hospital, Christie was lying on a gurney as white as a ghost.  Luckily for Christie, the hospital was testing an experimental drug called Synsorb.

Doctors gave her the drug and within 24-hours she was feeling better.  Boschman credits the drug for bringing his daughter quickly back to health and avoiding the organ damage that happens when E. coli poisoning progresses to its most advanced stage.

“Within 24 hours, Christie was on the mend. We felt that we had just dodged a major bullet,” says Boschman.

However, almost immediately following that hospital visit, the Boschman’s were back after their other daughter Nina, also contracted E. coli poisoning.

“I watched Nina and by this time, I was experienced enough to do a little counting, so I counted how many times Nina went to the bathroom in the first 48 hours,” he told CBC News.

Report highlights extent of problem

Boschman’s daughters contracted E. coli poisoning in 1999 — the same year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on food borne illness that allowed North Americans to learn the scale of the food safety problem.  The study concluded that 76 million people got sick and 5,000 died each year in the U.S. from food pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Chris Bolton, who works for a Calgary lab that tests for food-borne pathogens in water, says Canada does not have a good reputation for accuracy when it comes to tracking E. coli.

“Canada has been chastised by the Center for Disease Control, and even by provincial health associations that they’re under, [for] reporting food-related illnesses. Unlike other industrialized nations, we’re very inept at tracking these cases,” said Bolton, the head of Benchmark Labs.

Experts also caution there are questions about how Canada reports food safety numbers.  The Canadian Medical Association suggests that only one in 200 cases of food-borne illness are actually reported.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency itself says 11 million Canadians get sick every year from food-borne diseases.

High number of E. coli cases in Canada

Even though Canada’s E. coli numbers have dropped, a working paper written by Dennis Curtis at the University of Guelph shows that Canada has the highest reported rate of E. coli cases amongst nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Over the past decade, Canada reported 3.54 E. coli cases per 100,000 people — more than twice the rate of the United States. Canada’s high numbers are in part because of the Walkerton, Ont., E. coli outbreak in 2000.  But Sylvain Charlebois — one of the co-researchers on the Curtis working paper — cautions Canada’s numbers are high, despite the high-profile Ontario outbreak that killed seven people.

“If you take out Walkerton, you’re seeing a trend upwards of E. coli cases and it’s very difficult to explain right now why that is, so we need to further investigate,” says Charlebois.

Experts say one of Canada’s key problems is traceability — tracking food from farm to fork.  Canada regularly ranks near the bottom of the developed world in our ability to track food through the food chain.

Change to food safety system needed, says expert

Charlebois suggests a systemic change to Canada’s food safety system would help mitigate the problem.  Under the current regulatory system, Agriculture Canada oversees both the agriculture industry and food safety.  The minister of Agriculture is responsible for protecting both the agriculture industry and consumers.  Charlebois says there is an inherent conflict in that system.

“Sometimes these two mandates conflict with each other,” he told CBC News.

“Which is why some other Commonwealth countries, we have parliaments dissecting both roles, [create] an independent agency focusing solely on food safety issues.”

But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the new Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was adopted by the Senate in October, will give the CFIA more tools and resources to help keep Canadian food safe, like tougher penalties and better control over imports and exports.

Key tools include the enhanced ability for inspectors to demand food producers provide information in a timely and standardized manner and the authority to require traceability systems for food producers.  The government said these measures will help find products faster in recall situations so they can be removed from the shelves quicker and in a more comprehensive way.

 

Proposed Amendments Benefit Canadian Consumers and Maple Syrup Producers

November 8, 2012, Ottawa: The Government of Canada is proposing to amend the Maple Products Regulations to provide greater consumer confidence in the safety and purity of maple syrup and to enhance export opportunities for Canadian maple producers.

“Nothing is more Canadian than maple syrup,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “Canada is the world leader in maple syrup production, with over 80% of the world’s maple syrup exports. These proposed changes will help strengthen our maple producers’ position on the world stage.”

Last spring, the Senate passed a motion which called upon the Government of Canada to modernize and standardize the Maple Products Regulations. Today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is launching a public consultation on the CFIA website regarding the regulatory changes. Stakeholders, including members of the maple industry and consumers, will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to Canada’s Maple Products Regulations until December 7, 2012.

“I’m pleased to have helped pass a motion in the Senate which will help strengthen Canada’s maple industry,” said Senator Nancy Greene Raine. “Not only will these amendments provide maple producers greater freedom to market their products internationally, they will make it easier for Canadian consumers to purchase the syrup they prefer.”

The proposed changes will standardize maple syrup grade standards, classification systems and labelling requirements. Revised regulations would bring consistency to the maple industry nationally and internationally by providing a uniform definition of what constitutes maple syrup. Additionally, the proposed regulations introduce new requirements for two grades of maple syrup: Grade A, for sale at retail, and Processing Grade, for use in food processing. This would provide consistency to industry and eliminate confusion for consumers.

Amending the Maple Products Regulations would also make it easier for consumers to choose their preferred syrup. In order to be sold at retail, Grade A maple syrup would require a label categorizing the product as one of four different maple syrup colour and taste classes, and identifying the country or province of origin. Furthermore, the proposal to remove restrictions on the size and shape of maple product containers would give consumers more selection when making their purchases.

The proposed changes also include the addition of mandatory lot codes to improve producers’ ability to quickly identify, respond to and advise the CFIA of potentially unsafe maple products. This step is one of many the Government of Canada is taking to enhance the safety of the food supply.

For more information on the proposed changes or to provide your comments, visit theCFIA website at http://www.inspection.gc.ca.

 

National Potato Standard Released

November 7, 2012, Ottawa: A new biosecurity standard was introduced today that will help the potato industry protect its crops.

“Canadian potato producers have an opportunity to strengthen their defences against pests and disease on farm,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “A healthy field means a healthy yield for the Canadian potato industry.”

“This excellent tool will allow producers better control of the destiny of their farms,” said Keith Kuhl, Chairman, Canadian Potato Council. “By identifying pathways producers can implement measures which will protect against intrusion of pests.”

The national standard is a tool designed to minimize or prevent and control the introduction and spread of major plant pests and diseases in the potato industry. The National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard for Potato Growers is a collaboration between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canadian Potato Council of the Canadian Horticultural Council.

Biosecurity is not a new concept on Canadian farms. The potato standard offers a consistent national approach to controlling major plant pests and diseases in the industry.

The standard is based on three primary themes:

  • farm property management
  • farm operational management
  • plant health management

The standard was developed over two years, in consultation with producers, industry associations, academia, and provincial governments through funding provided by the Growing Forward policy initiative of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It was designed specifically for the potato industry, and is applicable to farm-level operations of all types and sizes.

To request a copy of the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard for Potato Growers or to learn more about plant biosecurity visit the CFIA’s website.

 

Safe Food for Canadians Act Passes Through Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food

November 6, 2012, Ottawa: The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has completed its review of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and has now referred it back to the House of Commons for Report Stage and Third reading. This brings the Government one step closer to strengthening and modernizing Canada’s food safety system to make sure it continues to provide safe food for consumers.

“This important Act will provide new authorities to address food safety risks and will build additional safety into the system, from processor to importer to consumer,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

The Act, which consolidates the authorities of multiple food statutes, specifically allows for:

  • tougher penalties for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk;
  • a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities;
  • better control over imports and exports; and
  • strengthened food traceability.

“Consolidating authorities into one Act will make inspection and enforcement powers consistent across all food commodities, enabling inspectors to be more efficient, and allowing the CFIA to focus on higher risk areas,” said Minister Ritz. “As a result, Canadian consumers will enjoy a safer food supply.”

For more information on the Safe Food for Canadians Act, contact the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342.

 

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

 

XL Foods workers question food safety at meat plant

 

Union says workers tell them management lacked concern for safe practices

CBC News

Posted: Oct 5, 2012 7:34 AM MT

The union representing XL Foods workers, as well as several former and current employees, say food safety was regularly jeopardized inside the Brooks, Alta.-based plant at the centre of an E. coli scare.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency shut down the Alberta plant last week, and its licence to operate the plant was temporarily suspended in the midst of a nationwide meat recall.

Tom Hesse with the United Food and Commercial Workers said the union has heard from employees about problems that could lead to tainted meat.

“Some [workers] are saying to us, ‘No, I wouldn’t eat the product that’s produced in my own workplace’,” said Hesse. “They tell us that management has a general lack of concern for food safety practices.”

The union held a special meeting with about a dozen XL Foods workers this week.

There were reports that workers didn’t sterilize their knives between cuts and if they did, they couldn’t keep up with the workflow, said Hesse.

Management, he said, turned a blind eye.

One man who worked for an industrial company that had a contract with XL Foods told CBC News that he saw an employee go into the washroom wearing his protective gear during one of his trips to the plant.

“Throwing it on the washroom floor in front of all the urinals and relieving himself and then picking up his garments off the floor. Picking up his scabbord with his knives off the floor and then returning to the production facility,” said the man, whose identity the CBC agreed to conceal.

XL Foods Inc. said in a press release Thursday it was taking “full responsibility” and is working to “implement changes to our food safety system to exceed existing high standards and regain the trust of Canadian consumers,” including enhanced testing.

Cleaning equipment reportedly clogged

CBC News has also spoken with several current and former XL Foods employees who said they also saw safety concerns prior to the meat recall.

Former employee Kyle Sailikin, who now operates a butcher shop in rural Saskatchewan, said cleaning equipment would frequently get clogged at the plant, but the company had other concerns.

“Processing came first, all times,” he said. “That was No. 1, was processing. It wasn’t cleaning, it wasn’t safety, it wasn’t the people working there. It was processing.”

Other employees described unhygienic behaviour, including workers on the line not washing hands and wearing contaminated clothing into areas which should have been kept clean.

Hesse said he was told at the union meeting that there are also claims that bosses are reluctant to stop the line when problems are found.

“[Workers] told us that shortly before the CFIA shut the plant down there was a sewage back up on both the slaughter and process floor,” said Hesse. “That’s obviously a serious issue in terms of food safety.

“They’re saying that XL is more concerned with the numbers they can produce rather than the safety of the workers or the safety of the product.”

Since the recall began, XL Foods has not agreed to any interviews.

The company’s Thursday press release also outlined changes to its food safety system that include more surveillance, more staff and better training.

Meanwhile, dozens of people have joined a class-action lawsuit against XL Foods, according to a lawyer acting for a man who became sick from E. coli after eating a steak that came via the company’s Brooks plant.