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Provincial processor pilot project picks 19 packers

Canada’s agriculture ministers have tapped 19 provincially inspected meat packing operations to take part in a pilot project aimed at boosting the interprovincial meat trade.

Coming out of a meeting last week in Toronto, the ministers said they were “preparing to launch” the 19 pilot projects, expecting to “enhance processors’ ability to sell their safe, high quality product to more Canadian consumers.”

“Farmers and processors are proud of their safe, high quality meat and we’re working together to help them sell their steaks or chops to their provincial neighbours,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a joint release Friday from the ministers, who next meet in New Brunswick in July.

“Breaking down trade barriers at home and abroad will yield greater returns for our meat industry and benefit all Canadians.”

Officials are to work with pilot participants to validate new inspection procedures, collect samples and information, and sort through what technical procedures could be adapted to “better reflect the operating environments of meat processors of all sizes,” the federal government said in December 2010 when calling for potential applicants, with a deadline of Jan. 7.

Participating pilot plants would continue to be serviced by their current inspection authority as per their normal arrangements, but throughout the pilot project, federal and provincial authorities would also jointly visit the pilot plant, collect information, run evaluations and validate new procedures for inspections.

Pilots would still operate under their current rules during the initial phases of work, but at the end of the process, pilots would have to meet a modified version of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Manual of Procedures (MOP) and Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) manual, along with other applicable CFIA regulations to become federally registered.

The Meat Inspection Regulations would require a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) plan, but reviewed to ensure a “suitable” adaptation of technical requirements for plants of small and medium size, the government said. Businesses completing the pilot process would need to meet the revised procedures.

By the time they complete the pilot process, participating plants would be federally registered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency — as long as they meet all federal requirements and operate under the revised procedures drafted for them.

Current federal meat inspection legislation blocks provincially-inspected meat plants from selling meat in Canada beyond the borders of a plant’s home province. Federally-inspected plants may ship meat anywhere within Canada as well as for export.

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