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Feds unveil food safety action plan

The federal government launched its Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan, which it says will strengthen Canada’s food safety system


Saskatoon, Sask. – The federal government has unveiled an action plan that will help improve Canada’s food safety system.

The Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan was unveiled on May 17. The plan will strengthen food safety rules, improve inspection, renew commitment to service and provide more information for consumers.

Through the action plan the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will launch a number of significant food safety enhancements over the next two years, says the federal government.

Most notably, the CFIA will work with consumer groups and industry to develop new regulations that will bring into force the Safe Food for Canadians Act, passed in November 2012.

As a first step, the CFIA is strengthening some of its beef safety rules and has implemented new mandatory requirements that will strengthen the control of E. coli in federally registered beef plants.

Requirements can be found in the CFIA’s, Meat and Poultry Products Manual. In the manual, the Policy on the Control of E. coli O157:H7/NM Contamination in Raw Beef Products says its purpose is:

• to provide clear guidance to industry and inspection staff on the measures required to control Escherichia coli O157:H7/NM in raw beef products; and
• to reflect the risk-based approach taken by the CFIA to address the risk posed by this pathogen.

Tenderized cuts

Also, by July 2, 2013, federally registered plants that produce mechanically tenderized beef cuts, such as steaks or roasts, will be required to label those products as tenderized and with cooking instructions.

While these actions are specific to federally registered plants, Health Canada also intends to propose broader mandatory labels to identify beef that has been mechanically tenderized at retail outlets like supermarkets. This voluntary practice has been in place since 2012.

This spring, the CFIA will launch a review of the food regulations in Canada that will need to be revised in order to bring the Safe Food for Canadians Act into force. The government says it expects this process to take up to two years.

Active consumer and stakeholder engagement in the process will be important to the success of efforts to bring the new legislation into force. Consumer groups and stakeholders will have that opportunity at an upcoming food safety regulatory forum in June.