USDA to have increased testing and re-inspection of imported Canadian meat
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service announced on Friday, Nov. 9, that it will increase testing of Canadian meat products for certain pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has instituted additional import requirements for meat and poultry products from Canada,” said Dr. Richard Raymond, Under Secretary for Food Safety for the FSIS, in a released statement. “Effective next week, FSIS will increase testing for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 and will require that shipments be held until testing is complete and products are confirmed negative for these pathogens. In addition, Canadian meat and poultry products will receive increased levels of re-inspection by FSIS to confirm they are eligible to enter commerce when presented at the U.S. border.
“FSIS will also immediately begin an audit of the Canadian food safety system that will focus on Ranchers Beef, Ltd. and will include other similar establishments that export beef to the U.S.,” Raymond added. “Based on information provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), FSIS had previously identified this Canadian plant, which has ceased operations, as a likely source of the multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to the Topps Meat Company. As the result of that recall investigation, FSIS delisted Ranchers Beef, Ltd., Canadian establishment number 630, on October 20, 2007. No product from that firm has been eligible to enter into the U.S. since that date.”
R-Calf USA CEO Bill Bullard said the announcement is a good start, but the agency must go further.
“FSIS has proposed to double the current rate of testing, but based on FSIS’ current testing rate of only about 11 percent of imported meat, that would still amount to less than one quarter of imported Canadian meat being scrutinized, and to us, that’s inadequate,” said Bullard. “Canada has a problem with E. coli, and USDA has known about lax inspections in Canada for years. Unfortunately it took a disaster before the agency took action, and USDA’s announcement is just a small step toward improving the situation.”
USDA’s OTM (over 30 months) Rule is scheduled to take effect Nov. 19.