June 16, 2024

After E. coli Outbreak, Canada Ramps Up Food Safety

Last fall in Canada,  the XL Foods E. coli outbreak sickened 18 people and triggered the largest meat recall in Canadian history.  Now, Canada is ramping up it food safety efforts through its Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.

Woman's Torso Food PoisoningThe goal of the plan is to strengthen food safety rules, create a  more effective inspection system, provide more information to consumers and develop regulation that will enact the Safe Food for Canadians Act, passed in November 2012.

As part of the plan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is strengthening some of its beef safety rules and has created new requirements to control E. coli in federally-registered beef plants including required labeling of all mechanically tenderized beef cuts by July 2, 2013. Health Canada will then propose broader mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized beef which would include grocery stores which have been following a voluntary labeling program since last year.

Canada has also prepared a list of U.S. products it will target in retaliation for U.S. country-of-origin labels (COOL) if  modifications aren’t made, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said.  When the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded COOL regulations in 2008,  Canada and Mexico objected saying the COOL laws created a barrier to trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) said the U.S. had the right to require COOL, but said, for imported meat, COOL created costs that likely exceeded benefits to consumers because of the limited and confusing information COOL provided. The organization set a deadline of May 23, 2013 for the U.S. to come into compliance with its decision.

To meet the deadline, the USDA proposed changing the labels to make then less confusing. The proposed COOL labels would specify the country or countries where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

The Canadian government does not feel this proposal brings the U.S. into compliance with the WTO’s order and has threatened sanctions and other retaliatory measures if the proposal is not modified.




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