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Canada to overhaul meat inspection rules

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 10-Apr-2012

The Canadian government has announced a “substantive” overhaul of meat inspection rules, saying the move will help smaller companies gain access to the wider market, without affecting food safety.

The new regulation updates an earlier 1990 directive, and aims to bring Canadian guidelines for meat inspections in line with those in the United States, as well as those of other major trading partners, said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in a statement aiming to analyze the regulation’s impact. It will also bring provincially inspected meat processors under the federal inspection system.

“The proposed amendments will not modify food safety standards,” the CFIA said.

It added: “In general, the proposed amendments would provide greater flexibility to federally registered establishments in how they may meet regulatory requirements while removing some redundant requirements, and would allow industry stakeholders to focus more of their attention on critically important food safety requirements.”

Currently, small and medium-sized provincial meat plants cannot trade beyond the borders of their own province, unless a facility is federally registered, and at about $200 per square foot, many smaller players have been priced out of the nationwide and international markets, according to the CFIA.

It said there are about 4000 facilities processing meat that are not federally registered, and only about 15-20 seek to become registered each year.

“While it is hoped that this number would increase as a result of the proposed modifications…costs associated with access to federal registration, even under the more flexible rules, remain high,” CFIA added, estimating costs of around C$500,000 to C$1m for compliance, and savings under the new rules of around C$50,000.

In addition, the agency has proposed setting up a register of permitted materials and coatings for food packaging, removing multiple checks and requirements.

“There are already adequate safeguards to ensure that material is safe and suitable for use,” it said.

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