Ottawa – An announcement from the federal government looks like it’s paving the way for allowing raw fresh and ground beef to be irradiated in Canada.
Health Canada has just published amendments in Canada Gazette II permitting irradiation of raw fresh and frozen ground beef.
Last June, Health Canada published proposed amendments in Canada Gazette I. The proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations were open for public comment for 75 days and closed on Sept. 1, 2016.
Health Canada received a total of 18 comments during the Canada Gazette I consultation period.
Of these, 34 per cent were from consumers, 22 per cent from industry, 22 per cent from industry associations, and 11 per cent each from consultants and government.
Respondents varied in their views, with a majority (72 per cent) supporting the proposal and a minority (28 per cent) expressing concerns.
According to The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the path toward beef irradiation being approved in Canada began in 1998 when the CCA submitted a petition.
The CCA says it has been committed since then to having the regulations amended.
Irradiation is an effective technology already approved for other foods in Canada and is used in 60 countries to improve food safety.
In the U.S., says the CCA, consumers have been able to purchase irradiated ground beef since 2000.
Beef irradiation can be performed using electricity to create energy which can destroy harmful bacteria. The process is called E-beam and uses ordinary electricity and does not involve radioactivity.
The amendments allow, but do not require, the beef industry to use irradiation as a tool to improve the safety of their products, explains the CCA. Like all other irradiated foods, irradiated ground beef will be clearly labelled as such in accordance with the existing labelling requirements set out in regulations.
Health Canada says the positive feedback received from stakeholders mainly aligned with factual information provided in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS). Stakeholders were generally supportive for the following reasons:
- the scientific evidence supports the safety and efficacy of irradiation;
- the technology has the potential to increase food safety and improve public health (reduce potential for foodborne illness);
- other irradiated foods are already permitted on the market in Canada;
- food irradiation facilities are currently in place in Canada (straight-forward implementation);
- it is a technology endorsed by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations;
- internationally, irradiation is already permitted for various products, including ground beef;
- the regulatory proposal aligns with existing/current U.S. regulations; and
- irradiation provides an additional choice for consumers, and labelling will allow informed choice and potentially increase public confidence in the food supply.