Food Safety

Food Safety: Among the Most Reliable in the World

Food Safety: Among the Most Reliable in the World

Meat recalls are rare events in Canada and Canadians should have confidence in this country’s food safety system.

Ensuring food safety is the absolute highest priority of Canada’s meat processors. The industry is committed to preventing the contamination of meat products through comprehensive food safety management systems in slaughter and meat processing establishments. Federally registered establishments are regulated by Canada’s extensive and prescriptive Meat Inspection Act and Meat Inspection Regulations as well as the voluminous Canadian Food Inspection Agency Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures. Establishments are inspected constantly, and audited randomly by foreign government veterinarians and meat inspectors.

Food safety management systems incorporate a series of “hurdles” in the processing system. Each hurdle contributes to a cumulative decrease in the number and likelihood of pathogens being present in the food supply. Hot water and steam pasteurization of beef carcasses are among the most effective hurdles currently available. Other hurdles include the application of organic acids such as lactic acid, a naturally occurring substance. Prior to their application, any antibacterial agent must have been evaluated for safety and efficacy and approved by Health Canada.

Every year millions of dollars are invested in laboratory testing, plant sanitation, equipment, conveyances, packaging, leading-edge technology, research and development. New sanitation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and laboratory testing technologies have all greatly contributed to improved food safety.

The Canadian meat inspection system is among the most stringent in the world. Canada received a top tier ranking of “superior” in both the 2008 and 2010 Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy World Ranking of Food Safety Performance among 17 leading Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Every year, Canada exports beef and pork products to countries around the world, including the United States, the European Union and Japan. The food safety agencies of these countries permit the importation of meat only from countries in which they have confidence in the food safety system. In 2011, Canada exported $3.2 billion of pork, $1.3 billion of beef and veal, $278 million of chicken, $83 million of horsemeat, $30 million of turkey and $8 million of bison meat to more than 120 foreign countries.

The meat processing industry has worked in collaboration with government agencies to put in place scientifically robust, innovative and world recognized food safety and quality systems. Canadian meat processors are dedicated to consumer safety and will continue to work directly with Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to remain vigilant and proactive, thereby providing the highest level of food safety and quality to both Canadians and international markets.

Farmers, meat processors, governments, retailers, transporters and consumers all play an important role in maintaining and constantly improving the quality and safety of the Canadian food supply.