Behind the Legend - Issue Number 24
Behind the Legend
Quarterly newsletter for Ontario's provincially licensed meat plant operators
Issue Number 24 - Winter 2018
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:
From Our Food Safety Desk:
From our Analytics Desk:
From Our Program Desk:
From Our Veterinary Desk:
From Our Training Desk:
These past nine months serving as the General Manager of the Meat Inspection Program in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs have enhanced my understanding of an industry that I have known for most of my life. Many of you reading this may not know that I grew up on a farm with an abattoir, and worked much of my career in meat inspection and later, in agricultural investigations and regulatory compliance.
Since the inception of the Meat Inspection Program in 1965, one of the cornerstones fundamental to approving carcasses for human consumption has been the application of the "Ontario Approved" legend. The application of the legend may just seem like a formality to you, perhaps just one small step before the carcass goes into the cooler. I can assure you, the stamp is important. Let me share some insights:
The program soon branched out into regions across the province. At that time, the areas were led by Regional Veterinarians (RVs) and an RV stamp existed. These stamps were eventually issued by the RV to holiday relief inspectors.
While regulations require that an operator ensure every carcass is stamped with a legible inspection legend, inspectors share that common goal as many inspectors apply the stamp personally. Clear and legible stamps help link meat products to the correct slaughter plant or freestanding meat plant, and support traceability principles. I challenge you to verify your stamp for legibility on your carcasses. Legible stamps help to promote your facility, and can also reduce the risks of negative food integrity impacts in the meat industry. Please speak to your inspector if you have questions or concerns around stamp legibility.
Protect Your Customers and Your Business: Use the Hygienic Slaughter Checklist
Hygienic slaughter is everyone's business. Not only will hygienic slaughter and dressing practices help reduce the risk of contamination of carcasses with pathogenic bacteria, they will also lower the presence of all spoilage organisms on the carcass, potentially increasing the shelf life of the product.
In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Food Safety Science Unit conducted a baseline study to quantify the prevalence of E. coli O157 and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) on beef and veal carcasses slaughtered in Ontario's provincially licensed plants. The study showed that there is a need to focus attention on hygienic slaughter and dressing practices and implement microbial control interventions to lessen the food safety risks on carcasses.
Starting January 1, 2018, OMAFRA Meat Inspectors began using a new checklist to help them conduct focused inspections on hygienic slaughter and dressing practices of beef and veal. The Hygienic Slaughter Checklist is conducted daily by inspectors, and deficiencies (CAPS) are identified and discussed with plant employees on the kill floor. Plant operators that slaughter bovine have been provided with a copy of the checklist. You, the operator, are strongly encouraged to complete the checklist with your inspector to better understand where potential contamination may occur. Your proactive use of the checklist will help you self-assess the hygienic practices in your abattoir so you can make any necessary adjustments or give staff any required training.
Hygienic slaughter is a key contributing factor in protecting your customers from potential sickness, and maintaining the reputation of your business. Together we can minimize carcass contamination during the slaughter and dressing process.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has completed Phase I of a pilot study to assess the presence of Listeria species (spp.) on food contact surfaces (FCS) and non-food contact surfaces (NFCS) in provincially licensed meat plants that produce ready-to-eat (RTE) products. This pilot study is helping OMAFRA to determine risks related to Listeria spp. Understanding where sources of potential contamination exist is very important to producing a safe RTE product, as most outbreaks and recalls are due to post-processing contamination. Listeria spp. places your customers and business at risk. If not dealt with effectively, it can be a precursor to finding Listeria monocytogenes, the pathogenic species of the Listeria spp. group.
In total, 40 different plants randomly selected across the Guelph, Greater Toronto Area, Woodstock, Vineland, Stratford and Peel areas were swabbed twice for Listeria spp. over a six-month period either at pre-operation or during operation. Of the plants sampled, 40 per cent had at least one Listeria spp. positive swab. Plants with a positive swab result were required to do additional cleaning and sanitation, and OMAFRA staff offered additional swabbing to verify Listeria spp. removal. In addition, OMAFRA staff discussed with operators the risks associated with Listeria spp. in RTE-producing plants, reviewed in-plant sanitation program practices and reviewed Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), written recipes and other protocols as applicable. Finally, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters - luminometers - were used at pre-operation to verify the effectiveness of sanitation programs. Plants that participated in this study demonstrated improvements in sanitation and increased understanding of the benefits of commitment to environmental testing in provincial facilities.
Cleaning and sanitizing are required means for controlling Listeria monocytogenes in a food establishment, and for reducing the risk of transferring this organism from surfaces or equipment into RTE food products. Listeria monocytogenes can be found throughout the plant environment in nooks and crannies, called niches, where it is more difficult to clean. It is important to have a way to verify that the cleaning and sanitation program is effective at eliminating these unwanted organisms.
There are different ways to verify the effectiveness of sanitation, and often a combination of approaches can be used:
Rapid sanitation tests
Rapid sanitation tests are quick tests done on surfaces prior to production to check for sanitation. These tests provide immediate results and are most valuable when used on a regular basis over time. The results can be used for tracking trends and monitoring the success of the sanitation program. An example of rapid sanitation tests is ATP testing.
Microbiological testing is a powerful tool that typically requires a laboratory to test for indicator bacteria, such as the Listeria spp. group. Testing for a broad indicator group increases the chances of finding growth niches (where all species of Listeria can grow, not only Listeria monocytogenes) and helps plants react in an effective manner. Establishments producing and processing RTE foods should design, implement and maintain an environmental sampling program for testing FCS and NFCS for the presence of Listeria spp. This will help to verify the effectiveness of the cleaning and sanitation program.
Environmental monitoring programs allow processing plants to be more proactive in Listeria control than ingredient or finished product testing. This is because Listeria contamination of RTE product is often sporadic and at low levels, whereas environmental niches may have higher levels that are more readily detectable. Routine monitoring programs can help to detect niches, allowing plants to initiate corrective actions before any Listeria monocytogenes can contaminate RTE product. An effective environmental sampling program will verify that other control programs, such as facility and equipment sanitation, facility (hygienic) zoning, equipment design, personnel practices and traffic controls are effective in preventing post-process contamination. When Listeria spp. is detected, the goal is to remove the organism with rigorous cleaning and sanitation. Positive results should be taken as evidence for the need to improve control of Listeria spp. and an opportunity to strengthen and improve sanitation programs. Experience indicates that environmental sampling is the most sensitive tool to assess control of the environment and to assess the risk of product contamination in RTE production environments.
Listeria monocytogenes, widely distributed in nature, has the potential to be in many types of food processing facilities, and has been associated with foodborne outbreaks across various food categories. Therefore, manufacturers of all types of food products should conduct a risk assessment to determine if a Listeria spp. environmental monitoring program is appropriate for their operation. An ongoing environmental sampling program will greatly assist in managing contamination risk in RTE foods. If you have questions, would like to further discuss this project or would like information about setting up an environmental monitoring program, please contact your area manager or the project lead, Dr. Jeanine Boulter-Bitzer at (519) 826-3514.
Food labelling is important as it communicates critical information to consumers. This includes storage instructions, product identity and a production date or code. Plant operators are responsible for ensuring their labels are compliant with both provincial and federal regulations.
Below is a general visual representation of labelling requirements outlined by provincial regulations - please note this graphic serves only as an example and labelling is product specific. Note that meat plant operators must also meet federal requirements. For further details regarding federal labelling requirements, please visit the CFIA Industry Labelling Tool website.
Italicized font - Provincial requirement
*Always a minimum requirement on labels
The Role of Analytics in Meat Inspection
Data and analytics are transforming the way organizations make decisions. The Meat Inspection Program is increasingly using analytics to better understand areas of risk and to make evidence-based decisions that address food safety and animal welfare issues. This includes looking more closely at things such as identified food safety deficiencies, overdue Corrective Action Plans, chemical residue and microbial testing results, plant audit results and many other relevant pieces of information related to food safety and animal welfare.
Using data analytics, we are able to more effectively:
Please talk to your area manager if you would like to learn more about how we are using data analytics, or if you have any questions about your specific operation.
Meat Plant Guideline Changes to Take Effect April 1, 2018
The Meat Plant Guidelines (MPGs) are a clear, plain-language explanation of the regulatory requirements under the Meat Regulation (Ontario Regulation 31/05). The Meat Inspection Program recently reviewed and updated several MPGs to ensure they are clear, provide better guidance, harmonize with current practices, and reflect the intent and authority of the regulation.
Updates to the following Meat Plant Guidelines come into effect on April 1, 2018:
In March, you will be provided with a letter outlining these changes and copies of these revised/new MPGs. The MPGs will also be available on our website at ontario.ca/meatinspection.
In the spring 2017 edition of Behind the Legend, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs'(OMAFRA) Meat Inspection Program announced it was reviewing the risk-based approach that is used to determine inspection frequencies in provincial meat plants. While work is still underway to refine our risk assessment system, we are providing additional information on how the risk levels are determined. OMAFRA's risk classification model has two major components: risk factors and mitigating factors. Risk factors take into account elements that are inherent to the plant's business model and structure, while mitigating factors evaluate the efforts of the regulated party to remain in compliance with minimum regulatory requirements. The criteria of each component are outlined below.
In general, some factors have a greater impact on the inspection frequency.
Higher inspection frequency:
Lower inspection frequency:
The risk profile for each plant could change as new information on these factors becomes available.
Changes in OMAFRA Reporting to the CFIA on Federal Animal Identification Requirements in Provincially Licensed Slaughter Plants
Provincially licensed slaughter plants must meet the provisions for animal identification requirements of both the federal Health of Animals Act and the provincial Food Safety and Quality Act. The responsibilities of OMAFRA inspectors in reporting compliance with newly introduced federal animal identification requirements at provincially licensed slaughter plants have changed. There are changes to:
The species that have mandatory federal identification requirements now include:
As of March 1, 2018, if an inspector suspects that a food animal may not be bearing mandatory animal identification, the inspector will contact the Veterinary Scientist (VS) as soon as possible. The inspector will provide the VS with the following information for Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) follow-up:
As of March 1, 2018, if an inspector suspects that animal may not be bearing mandatory identification, the inspector will no longer be required to:
Operator requirements under federal Health of Animals Act and regulation
The requirements of the federal Health of Animals Act and regulation apply to all abattoirs, including those that are not inspected by the CFIA. The role of the OMAFRA inspector in reporting suspected missing tags to the CFIA does not replace operator responsibilities for compliance with federal requirements under the Health of Animals Act.
For information regarding your responsibilities under federal requirements as an operator of a provincial meat plant, contact the CFIA or visit the links below.
For information on the: federal livestock identification requirements for provincially licensed slaughter plants.
For information on the: federal Health of Animals Regulations.
For information on provincial animal identification requirements refer to the: Food Safety and Quality Act, O. Reg. 31/05 Meat, sections 58, 59, and 73.
Free Online E-Learning Courses
Are you looking for a convenient option for gaining skills and knowledge in the areas of food safety, traceability and farm business practices?
A series of free online courses is now available for producers, processors and agri-food businesses. These courses will provide foundational information to help you:
Producers and processors have found the following benefits when taking these online courses:
How do I Get Started?
Register for your free account today at agandfoodeducation.ca. Then simply log in and begin learning wherever and whenever it is convenient for you. Accessible versions of the courses are available. For more information, contact the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-674-1500 ext. 63295.
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
Norman Weber of Minden, Ontario, was fined $3,000 for carrying on a licensed activity without holding a licence. On November 20, 2017, Mr. Weber was convicted of producing Category 2 meat products, including smoked meats. The meat products were voluntarily condemned and destroyed.
Justice of the Peace Catherine Henderson ordered Mr. Weber to pay a fine of $3,000, plus a 25 per cent Victim Fine Surcharge of $750.
Prathab Nirupasingham of Woodville, Ontario, was fined $1,500 for carrying on a licensed activity without holding a licence. On November 20, 2017, Mr. Nirupasingham was convicted of allowing slaughter activities to be conducted on his property without a licence.
Justice of the Peace Catherine Henderson ordered Mr. Nirupasingham to pay $1,500, plus a 25 per cent Victim Fine Surcharge of $375.
Meat Inspection Program Management Team
For any inquiries regarding meat inspection, please contact your area manager. All area managers can be paged at: 1-866-395-8957. Ask for your area manager by name.
For more information: