Canadian meat industry critiques CFIA Listeria draft;

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Binkley, Alex


Associations representing Canadian meat packers and processors want the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to stick to HACCP principles indrafting new Listeria regulations.

CFIA and Health Canada began a review of Listeria inspection regulations last fall after bacteria contaminated deli meats from Maple Leaf Products killed 20 and sickened more than 50 others. Recently CFIAcirculated draft changes to the meat industry for feedback with the goal of establishing a final policy by March.

The industry has set up a working group on Listeria monocytogenes to assist in development of the new regulations, Jim Laws, executive director of the Canadian Meat Council, which represents slaughter plants and primary processors, tells Food Chemical News. It is also developing guidance on "best practices for Listeria control in meat-processing establishments."

The industry thinks CFIA's emphasis should be on requiring companies to conduct regular environmental testing in processing plants to make sure Listeria is under control, he says. "Eliminating or reducingListeria to undetectable levels in the processing environment is thesurest way to prevent contamination of ready to eat products."

CFIA did not respond to Food Chemical News' request for a copy of its draft proposal, but one meat industry official who has seen the document is not a fan. CFIA's changes are "heavy handed," says Robert DeValk, Canadian representative for the North American Meat Processors Association. Instead of relying on HACCP's focus of checking all potential points of contamination in processing facilities, CFIA proposes to ramp up final product testing, he observes.

At the Pork Seminar, in Banff, Alberta, last month, Suzanne Duguette, CFIA's national meat processing specialist, confirmed that the new regulations will include plant environment and final product testing as well as mandatory reporting of any positive results to the agency.

The HACCP approach is to concentrate on checking processing operations "all the way to the final product," DeValk says. "You have to bereally rigorous in testing work surfaces."

HACCP calls for some final product testing to verify that the Listeria prevention measures are working but it shouldn't be the main wayof monitoring plants, he says.

--Alex Binkley




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