Canadian beef body seeks irradiation approval

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Irradiation can help reduce bacterial growth in meat processing
Irradiation can help reduce bacterial growth in meat processing

Related tags World health organization Foodborne illness Nutrition Beef

Canada’s beef industry is renewing its push for the approval of irradiation in meat processing plants, which it claims could help reduce foodborne illness from ground beef.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), originally submitted a petition for the approval of irradiation to Health Canada in 1998, but although a scientific review was completed with a positive recommendation from officials, the final steps to approval were never completed, due to government concerns over consumer acceptance.

However, CCA now been asked to submit more paperwork to Health Canada to “reactivate”​ the approval process.

CCA director of technical services Mark D Klassen told​ that irradiation is “likely the most effective intervention remaining”​ to prevent dangerous bacterial growth in meat.

“When you add irradiation to the existing food safety system, we could essentially eliminate E.coli-related illness arising from ground beef,”​ he said, adding that both Health Canada and the World Health Organization had concluded that the process of beef irradiation is “both safe and effective”​.

Klassen said that irradiation would primarily be used on ground beef products, as it is in the US, where irradiation has already been approved. “Dedicated facilities are used to irradiate beef, using an electron beam process where boxes of product on a conveyor belt pass under a beam. We anticipate similar processes would be utilised in Canada if beef irradiation was approved,”​ he said.

Consumer support

The Consumers Association of Canada (CAC) recently stated its support for the approval of beef irradiation in Canada. A consumer survey held by CAC earlier this month revealed that while the majority of Canadians (57%) are still not aware of the process, the majority (74%) would support having the option of purchasing meat products that have been treated with irradiation to reduce bacteria.

“There is still more that needs to be done around consumer education and we find the more we can share with consumers about the process, the more supportive they are,”​ said Klassen.

“Consumer education needs to be a shared responsibility, involving public health authorities, the scientific community, as well the industry. We know from the history of milk pasteurisation that education efforts may be required over many years.”

Related topics Meat

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