New Canadian listeria rules said to lack bite for big companies

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Listeria

New rules on listeria testing in ready-to-eat meats launched last week by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) don’t go far enough to guard against the risk of infection in large companies, warns one of the federal government’s expert advisors on food safety.

Rick Holley, a member of the agency’s academic advisory panel on food safety, welcomed the new rules but said that large companies should conduct more comprehensive testing.

It’s a positive outcome from a regulatory perspective in that it serves as a clear indication to industry that government is serious about this (​tightening of testing procedures)​,” said Holley speaking exclusively to

But he recommended shorter testing intervals for large companies than those set out in the Agency’s new rules. “In companies the size of Maple Leaf, they would be well advised to increase food-contact surface sampling frequencies beyond the description and the scaffold that has been given by this document. It’s scaffold upon which they should be building their own programmes​,” said Holley.

The requirement is that the sample be taken three hours after start-up and that might not be enough once a week​,” he added.

Maple Leaf’s Plant

Canada’s outbreak of listeriosis last summer, which was linked to the deaths of 20 people, was traced to meats producer Maple Leaf’s plant near Toronto.

The new rules from the CFAI, effective from April 1, require companies producing ready-to-eat meats and hot dogs to test food-contact surfaces up to once a week per line and to identify trends in order to safeguard against potential infections. All positive tests must be reported to agency inspectors, who will be required to undertake more monitoring tests.

Operators must also test meat products for possible listeria contamination up to 12 times a year.

Continuous Improvement

The agency’s Paul Mayers, associate vice-president of programs, told that: “This is not about a single point in time doing something and washing our hands and saying, OK, now we’ve done it. It’s about continuous improvement. Wherever we identify that there is a need in terms of system enhancement, we’re going to act on that learning​.”

The agency said its intention was to establish a new baseline of frequency of testing.

Further rules for environmental testing are expected to be introduced by the autumn.

No one from the CFAI was available to respond directly to Holley’s comments.

Related topics: Regulation

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