Response to Ad Hoc Committee

Food Inspection Branch
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
5th Floor
1 Stone Road West
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2

November 24, 2010

Ad Hoc Committee for Concerned Abattoir and Stand Alone Processors
c/o Louis Roesch
Roesch Meats
RR 2
Kent Bridge, Ontario
N0P 1V0

Dear Mr. Roesch:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us on August 17 and September 13, 2010, and for your August 23, 2010 letter and September 10, 2010 fax which summarized the Ad Hoc Committee's concerns. The meetings provided us with useful information and helpful, real-life examples that illustrate the concerns facing the meat industry.

The Ad Hoc Committee requested information about some specific construction and paperwork items. In addition, we committed to providing information about a number of operational concerns. Although many of these items have been discussed with individual meat plant operators in the past, we are increasing our efforts to ensure that clear information is made available to all licensees. To address this, a quarterly newsletter, Behind the Legend, has been created by the Meat Inspection Program to provide timely information to licensed meat plant operators. The first edition of the newsletter was distributed to all licensees in September 2010.

Please find attached Appendix I which provides a formal response to these items. The appendix outlines each concern raised, and how the Meat Inspection Program addressed the concern, as well as findings and rationale. We hope the attached documents bring a better understanding to our current regulatory requirements and policies. Also attached are two examples of simplified records and a template for the hunted game protocol.

We have a dedicated group of management and staff who work hard on continuous improvement in the Meat Inspection Program. We know there's always more work to do, and here are some of the steps we have taken to enhance uniformity of inspections and improve communications.

Uniformity of inspection
In the Meat Inspection Program, a number of processes are in place to help achieve uniformity of inspections:

Training - Prior to certification, Ontario's meat inspectors receive comprehensive and rigorous training. The training is equivalent to, or exceeds programs in other jurisdictions. Inspectors complete 12-15 days of classroom training and two distance education courses, and spend approximately six months with a field trainer gaining on-the job experience to acquire a thorough understanding of regulations, policies and practices.

Continuous learning - Late in 2009, the Meat Inspection Program piloted a project where certified inspectors attended technical training to refresh their skills. This has been ongoing in 2010 and to date, 22 inspectors have completed the Meat Hygiene course. Plans are underway to require all certified staff to take this course every five years as a continuous learning requirement.

Three-year training plan - In addition, a three-year training plan for the Meat Inspection Program has been in place since 2009 which provides direction for training of field staff. This program will go a long way in achieving uniformity of inspections in operations across the province.

Internal communications - With approximately 200 staff across the entire province, internal communication and consistent messaging is an ongoing challenge that the Meat Inspection Program addresses daily. We have improved our structure and tightened up communications processes to facilitate the two-way flow of information. Regional managers meet with area managers during bi-weekly conference calls to discuss approaches to common issues. Area managers hold eight face-to-face meetings annually to discuss policies, changes, and consistency issues. Each area manager meets with their team of inspectors on a quarterly basis to provide training and program updates and to address concerns. Auditors are updated about issues discussed at such meetings. For example, the information provided in Appendix I will be provided to all staff and management across the Meat Inspection Program. We also hold biannual conferences and workshops at the division, branch and program level, which contribute to a consistent approach across the province.

External communications - Any changes or clarifications to policies will be published in the newsletter, Behind the Legend, and will also be made available to meat plant operators through the Ontario Independent Meat Processors (OIMP).

Dispute resolution mechanism - We continue to encourage you to contact your area manager anytime you identify concerns at your meat plant, either with the application of the Meat Regulation, or with inspection staff. A list of area managers and their contact information was provided in the September edition of Behind the Legend, and each subsequent edition will include an updated contact list.

Decision-making process
I would like to point out that program policy decisions are made by the Meat Inspection Policy Review Committee who reviews existing or emerging policies to ensure consistent, scientifically valid, harmonizes with current practice and reflects the intent of Ontario Regulation 31/05 Meat. The Committee is composed of a regional manager, an area manager, a meat hygiene officer, a meat scientist, an engineer, a regulatory analyst and two food safety advisors. In addition, the OIMP is represented on the Committee to ensure the industry's standpoint is taken into account. We believe the diverse membership and rigorous committee process ensures field experience, regulatory knowledge and subject matter expertise greatly contribute to our ability to make informed decisions.

In addition, the Meat Inspection Program benefits from extensive scientific and technical support from the Food Safety Science Unit (FSSU) in the Food Inspection Branch when making any decision. Resources include a meat scientist, a chemist, a microbiologist and a statistician, all with vast knowledge, expertise and experience in their respective fields. We consult and work closely with the FSSU to ensure our decisions always have a strong scientific base.

I hope this information is useful and I trust that we have covered all areas of concern that were discussed in our meetings and correspondence. As always, we are interested in hearing your feedback about our meat inspection initiatives, as well as your issues and concerns. Comments and suggestions can be sent to ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca or phone 1-877-424-1300.

Once again, I would like to thank you and the Ad Hoc Committee for taking the time to outline your concerns and to work with us on addressing them.

We are committed to continuing to make positive changes in meat inspection in the province.

Sincerely,



Lee-Ann Walker
General Manager, Meat Inspection Program

Enclosures (4)

c. Ontario Independent Meat Processors

 


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 06 December 2010
Last Reviewed: 07 December 2010