The Globe and Mail has reported that the U.S Agriculture Department is giving the Canadian Food Inspection Agency a mid-March deadline to fix food safety and sanitation concerns that were discovered in an audit of Canadian meat, poultry and egg inspection systems.
Failing to fix these concerns could possibly lead to the U.S. government disallowing Canadian plants that were audited from exporting their products to the U.S.
According to the Globe story published on March 1, 2016, the CFIA did in fact meet the “core criteria” for overall food inspection in the audit of slaughter and processing plants in Ontario and Quebec, conducted by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) between May 28 and June 13, 2014. U.S. officials, however, identified “weaknesses related to government oversight, plant sanitation and microbiological testing” for listeria, salmonella and E. coli.
The Globe and Mail story says the CFIA issued a statement to the newspaper the night before the article was published, insisting that food safety was not compromised, and that steps are being taken to improve the inspection system. The CFIA’s statement stressed that it was “important to note that none of the audit findings posed a food safety risk to consumers, including the identified sanitation issues,” and that “At the time of the audit, the CFIA inspectors were already addressing the sanitation findings outlined in the audit report and the establishments were already taking the required steps to fix the issues in question.”
One of the concerns of the audit was related to environmental sampling and testing in food-production plants for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), and the audit also raised concerns about plant inspectors not checking for the presence of manure, ingesta or milk contamination on carcasses prior to the final wash.
According to the Globe article, the U.S. audit report does contain written responses from the CFIA that strongly objected to the findings. In these objections, the CFIA says the report “paints an inaccurate picture” and that the CFIA was in the process of addressing the issues described.