Canada Gets Two-Week Deadline to Act on Food Safety

Mar 03, 2016 04:20 AM EST | By Chandan Das

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to get its food safety act together by mid-March. The deadline comes in the wake of the department's Food and Safety Inspection Service's (FSIS) audit of food safety of commodities supplied by Canada. Failure to comply with the FSIS recommendations will result in blocking food exports from the neighboring country, the U.S. agency warned.

While CFIA passed the "core criteria" for food inspection in general, American officials who audited Canada's egg, poultry and meat inspection systems between May 28 and June 14, 2014 found a number of operation flaws related to government omission, plant hygiene as well as microbiological testing for salmonella, listeria and E. coli, The Globe and Mail reported.

Consequently, FSIS has warned that inability of CFIA to mend the deficiencies may result in the U.S. government delisting all audited Canadian plants from supplying their commodities to the United States.

FSIS published the audit report on Jan. 14 this year claiming that Canada is still maintaining an "on-going equivalence to the United States system." However, in a statement issued by CFIA to the media outlet early this week maintained that though they did not compromise food safety, they were certainly initiating steps for the betterment of the inspection system.

The agency has demanded that Canada should take samples and test multiple surfaces for Listeria monocytogenes in the country's meat processing plants. In fact, following a deadly outbreak of Listeria in 2008, the independent Weatherill report proposed that CFIA should increase its laboratory capacity. However, the report allowed the processors to undertake the actual testing, Food Safety News reported.

Currently, the Canadian processors only test food contact surfaces for Listeria monocytogenes, but do not check any other areas, which may host the pathogenic bacteria inside a plant.

Interestingly enough, the audit of the plants is based on FSIS officials' visits to specific processing plants during which they discovered ceiling leaks, rust and condensation. Discovery of these sanitation issues led the FSIS to note that the efforts of CFIA were not comparable to U.S. standards. As a result, the audit team from the U.S. demanded corrections on an urgent basis.

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