Behind the Legend - Issue #22
Behind the Legend
Quarterly newsletter for Ontario's provincially licensed meat plant operators
Issue Number 22 - Summer 2017
The meat inspection legend is the stamp that goes on meat products when they have met all regulatory requirements and are deemed safe for Ontario consumers.
In this Issue
The primary food safety goal during slaughter is to minimize and remove bacterial contamination. Contamination of meat during slaughter and processing is a major risk for subsequent food-borne illnesses in humans. This is because bacteria transferred from the animals' fecal material, gastrointestinal tract, hide, and also from plant equipment and workers hands to the carcass is very difficult to prevent.
It's normal to find Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in human and animal intestines. Most E. coli are harmless and are an important part of a healthy intestinal function. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness when they find their way into human intestines.
Some pathogenic E. coli cause illness by making a toxin called Shiga toxin. The bacteria that make these toxins are called "Shiga toxin producing E. coli", or STEC for short. STEC cause human illness which can range from mild diarrhea to very severe and life threatening conditions, including death.
The STEC strain most frequently associated with human illness in North America is serotype O157:H7. In addition to E. coli O157:H7, six other E. coli serotypes (O26, O45, O111, O103, O121, and O145) are also commonly associated with severe illnesses in humans. A number of species of animals slaughtered for meat may carry STEC. Although cattle are the primary group of animals to be at risk, sheep, goats and pigs can also carry these organisms in their intestines which can then be transferred to meat during slaughter and processing.
The best prevention of contamination is strict and vigilant sanitation practices, focussing on the many steps of hygienic slaughter. There is no substitute for keeping bacteria off the carcass in the first place.
An important step in the dressing procedure is the application of proven antimicrobial interventions to reduce pathogens on carcass surfaces and effectively remove or inactivate bacterial contamination to improve meat safety. These low-cost antimicrobials include: lactic, acetic or other organic acid, peroxyacetic acid, hot water or other approved interventions.
The table below highlights how you can protect your business and customers from STEC:
Reducing the major risk factors for foodborne illnesses that might affect your customers means abattoirs must control contamination of carcasses during slaughter. Applying a simple, low cost, effective intervention will make a difference to your business and your customers. Lastly, testing carcasses for these organisms can give you assurance that you are not releasing contaminated products to the marketplace.
In 2014, the Meat Regulation under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 was amended to clarify OMAFRA's role in the inspection system the inspection of slaughter plants and higher risk meat processing plants. These are businesses that distribute a significant portion of their meat products through wholesale markets or perform higher risk meat processing activities. The Public Health Unit's role continues to focus on food premises, those businesses that serve the public.
In some instances, a licence to operate a provincial meat plant is not required. One instance is called the "Food Product Exemption".
What is the Food Product Exemption?
A provincial licence is not required if a business ONLY prepares:
What is edible oil?
Edible oil or fat, is the oil or fat derived from a food animal and that is produced for human consumption.
What is bouillon?
Bouillon is a broth which may or may not be dehydrated and that is derived from a food animal.
How is it determined that meat products contain less than 25% meat?
The percentage of meat in a product is determined by raw weight of the product's total ingredients (including water). The operator should refer to their recipe in determining whether a product meets the 25% exemption. If asked, the operator will be responsible for demonstrating the product is less than 25% meat.
What should I do if I think my business is exempt from licensing?
Contact your Area Manager. The Meat Inspection Program will work with Public Health Units as necessary to evaluate your plant and activities to determine if you may be exempt from licensing. The process of assessing plants to determine if they are exempt may take time and discretion must be used to ensure careful consideration and informed decision making.
Who inspects businesses that are exempt?
A business exempt from licensing under the Meat Regulation will be subject to public health inspection under the Food Premises Regulation. The public health unit's role continues to focus on food premises, those businesses that serve the public.
If a plant no longer requires a licence due to the exemptions, will anyone monitor their activities?
A plant that is no longer licensed under the Meat Regulaotin due to the exemptions will be subject to the Food Premises Regulation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and therefore inspected by the municipal public health unit. Compliance staff from OMAFRA and the municipal public health unit will monitor the business activities for compliance with applicable regulations.
Where can I learn more?
The exemptions can be found in section 2.1 of the Meat Regulaotin. OMAFRA's ‘Do you Operate a Provincial Meat Plant' chart provides you with more information on the exemptions.
OMAFRA has published new resources for transporting small poultry flocks that may be useful for your abattoir and clients. Small poultry flocks are subject to the same transport rules as commercial flocks, but many small flock owners don't have the same expertise available to them for loading and transporting their birds. These documents provide advice and guidance to small flock producers and can be found at: Transport Guidelines for Small Flock Poultry Owners.
From Our Veterinarian Desk: Information For Operators of Provincially Licensed Abattoirs On Emergency Slaughter Provisions
Emergency Slaughter provisions in the Meat Regulation under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA) allow for the slaughter and bleeding of a food animal on a producer's premises and the transport of the carcass to a licensed abattoir for dressing and post mortem inspection. If approved, the carcass can be processed into an inspected meat product that can be sold, distributed, shared or donated.
A Regional Veterinarian, appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), can authorize an Emergency Slaughter (ES) on farm when an otherwise healthy food animal:
As an operator of a provincially licensed abattoir, you may decide to make the business decision to accept and process ES carcasses. If you are interested in accepting ES carcasses, you need to consider the following:
Ante mortem inspection occurs before an animal is slaughtered, and serves to differentiate normal from abnormal food animals. This inspection is critical for controlling or reducing hazards to animal health and animal handlers and for processing safe meat and meat products.
Ante mortem inspection is a shared responsibility between industry and government. It is the responsibility of the operator to present each animal that is to be slaughtered to an inspector appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) for an ante mortem inspection.
Ante mortem inspections are performed to:
You can speak with your inspector if you have questions on ante mortem inspection or contact Dr. Alex Reid or page her at 1-866-395-8957.
Give your company a competitive edge take free eLearning courses to learn more about industry best practices and to be more competitive in the marketplace! Access the new Food Safety and Traceability eLearning courses online, the Agriculture and Food Education in Ontario online learning system through the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus.
The new Traceability eLearning courses show how good practices can:
The new Food Safety eLearning courses will help you to:
Visit the website to register for a free account. Then simply log in and begin learning wherever and whenever is convenient for you! Accessible versions of the courses are available. For more information, contact the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus at 519-674-1500 ext. 63295. Do you prefer classroom-based learning? Food Safety and Traceability courses and workshops are still offered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). Visit their webite for the dates and locations of upcoming in-person opportunities. Online course development was funded through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative that encourages innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada's agri-food and agri-products sector.
The Canadian government is proposing changes to the Health of Animals Regulations that will require all farmers with livestock to have a premises identification number (PID). A PID is a unique national number assigned to a piece of land by a provincial or territorial government. Under the proposed amendments, anyone who sends or receives livestock will need a PID - including producers, auction marts, assembly yards, abattoirs and deadstock collectors.
How it works
PID's make it possible to trace an animal's movements from one point to another throughout the supply chain, making it easier in turn to control the spread of disease and minimize any impact on the industry. The proposed amendments are expected to strengthen Canada's ability to respond quickly to health threats and other emergencies.
"As farmers, we use traceability as a farm management tool. It helps us manage our animals better and bring more value to the market," said Pascal Lemire, a Québec dairy farmer. "Traceability is key to the future of Canadian agriculture."
But not every Canadian livestock operator has a PID number yet. Although all jurisdictions can issue PIDs, only Québec, Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan have laws requiring them.
A free safety net
Livestock PIDs are free to Canadian farmers looking to protect their livestock should a safety issue occur, such as a flood, fire or disease outbreak. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is encouraging producers and stakeholders across the supply chain to raise this issue with their peers and register as soon as possible. Gettng involved now will help stakeholders be compliant by the time the proposed amendments are compulsory, and will prevent a surge of requests from premises yet to be identified.
Canada's reputation for producing safe and healthy food is world-class. A robust traceability system will help uphold this reputation at home and around the world.
Please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website learn more about premises identification and how to participate.
Find out more
Help Us Enforce the Law!
Anyone with information regarding potential violations of provincial food and inspection legislation is asked to contact the OMAFRA Regulatory Compliance Unit at: (519) 826-4537 toll-free at 1-888-466-2372.