Proposed Meat Inspection Rule Changes Draw NDP Fire

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz calls the NDP statements ‘outrageous rhetoric’

CBC News

Posted: May 15, 2012

Meat inspection rule changes

MPs Pierre Lemieux, Malcolm Allen and Frank Valeriote discuss new rules that will allow dead animals to be cut into meat, if the animal meets specific requirements before it died. A proposed change to Canada’s meat inspection rules could permit meat from already-dead animals to be processed for human consumption, although federal inspectors say that would only happen on rare occasions.

The proposed changes to the inspection regulations will leave Canadians wondering if the meat they buy is actually safe, federal NDP says.

But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency disagrees, saying the changes designed to streamline the system have only been proposed at this point and if passed would have no effect on food safety.

The NDP released a statement Tuesday saying the Conservative government will allow private inspectors, who may not be qualified, to inspect meat and also change what meat is acceptable — meaning already-dead and crippled animal meat would be okay for processing for the tables of Canadians.

The party is also concerned how budget cuts to CFIA mixed with the proposed regulation changes would affect the inspection of meat for human consumption.

“First the Conservatives will let private inspectors monitor meat, and now they’re essentially allowing road- kill-ready meat into the food supply,” said Malcolm Allen, the NDP agriculture critic. “Even scarier is the fact that we won’t know how long animals have been dead before processing — or even that the meat will be inspected at all.”

Tim O’Connor, a spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said that is untrue.

The NDP claims attempts to streamline the federal Meat Inspection Regulations will call into question the safety of meat for human consumption. Mohammad Hannon/Associated Press: “Dead stock is not allowed for human consumption,” he said. Right now the federal rules are black and white: under no circumstance can an animal designated for human consumption be slaughtered outside of a registered facility.

With the proposed rule changes, O’Connor said there could be a possibility for rare cases where an animal could be slaughtered on farm; for example, if a steer broke its leg or was too aggressive to be safely transferred.

“It would only be under very limited circumstances,” said O’Connor.

Since losing the steer would be a financial hit to the rancher, they could seek approval from CFIA for euthanizing the animal at their location.

They would need an inspection by a veterinarian to verify the animal is safe for human consumption before it is euthanized. The vet would also certify the date and method.

Then the rancher would have to document their techniques, which would have to fall in line with humane treatment and the Health of Animals Act requirements, before transferring the meat to a processing plant within a required time frame where it would be inspected again.

Details are still to be worked out.

O’Connor said the exact protocol still has to be worked out, as the amendment proposal is still in its early stages and still has to go through a consultation process.

He said the role of private inspectors or veterinarians is also still undecided, and would still have to fulfill current food inspection requirements.

Meat pegged for interprovincial and international trade has to be completed at a federally-registered processing plant, which would have to follow food inspection requirements already in place.

There are some processing plants and slaughterhouses that are not federally registered, but O’Connor said regulations for those facilities fall under the control of each province.

“The NDP know full well, despite their outrageous rhetoric, that this proposal will not reduce food safety in any way,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in a statement.

“Only live animals that are inspected and safe for human consumption but cannot be transported safely and humanely would be eligible for on-farm slaughter and then transported to a federal processing facility.”

John Masswohl, director of government and international relations at Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said the proposed rule change is a win-win situation for the better treatment of the animals.

He said it’s better to euthanize an injured animal on a farm and then transport it. “Right now, the farmer could only choose to transport it or euthanize and dispose of it,” Masswohl said.

He also said diseased or dead animals would not be considered. “I don’t know where [the NDP] are coming from, or what regulations they read,” said Masswohl.

Meat inspection regulation changes are more practical for farmers and improve animal welfare, says the CFA

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) welcomes the proposed changes to the federal Meat Inspection Regulations that allow animals to be euthanized under veterinary supervision on farms before being transported to a processing facility.

“With these changes, this once very prescriptive regulation will provide a more practical, outcome based approach for farmers. Farmers have been calling for a way to deal with injured or aggressive animals that are difficult to transport for some time,” remarked CFA President Ron Bonnett.

Under the current regulation, if a producer is unable to transport an animal without risking the safety of handlers or contravening the Health of Animal Regulations, the animal must be euthanized on farm and destroyed, resulting in farmers losing the value of the animal. The changes would allow for a live animal to be euthanized on-farm under veterinary supervision and then transported to a federal processing facility.

“This change will provide an alternative for farmers, not having to choose between transporting compromised animals – a potential animal welfare issue – or losing the value of their animal. This change helps mitigate farmers’ losses and improves the humane treatment of live animals. This is not about allowing sick or diseased animal into system. There are already regulations in place that ensure this does not happen. A veterinarian has to perform an examination before slaughter to make sure it’s safe to enter the food system. The CFA supports this because all the same food safety checks and balances are in place and the changes are about optimizing efficiencies in the food system,” Bonnett concluded.

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