Canadian Meat Inspection System Questioned by USDA Report

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture audit of Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems found “systemic” inspection and sanitation problems which raise “significant questions about the Canadian system.”

The report is from a series of “onsite equivalence verification” audits conducted by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last September at seven Canadian slaughteer and processing facilities. The most “significant” concern, FSIS said, was the Canadian inspectors were not conducting carcass-by-carcass inspections for contaminations by “feces, milk or ingesta” before stamping the carcasses as inspected. Such contamination is a primary pathway for pathogen transmission, including E. coli.

"Post-mortem inspection procedures that do not ensure carcass-by-carcass inspection . . . raise significant questions about the Canadian system," FSIS officials wrote in the audit.

The audits were conducted in September 2016 in slaughterhouses in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec and shared with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in April.

According to the report, the U.S. rejected a total of 1.7 million pounds of Canadian meat and poultry at the port of entry, of which about 130,000 pounds were found to have been contaminated with fecal matter, ingesta or other pathogens. A total of about 4.8 billion pounds of meat and poultry were exported to the U.S. from Canada during that time period.

The U. S. requires carcasses to be inspected by a government inspector to confirm they aren't contaminated before they are stamped "inspected and passed." The rule applies both to meat from the U.S. and carcasses imported into the country. The U.S. government could temporarily ban Canadian plants from exporting their products to the United States if the requirements aren't met.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a statement claiming Canada’s food system is safe.

"Both Canada and the U.S. have rules that prohibit the production of meat from carcasses that are contaminated," CFIA spokeswoman Maria Kubacki told CBC News. "Both countries have high standards for food safety. Canada and the U.S. have different approaches to verify that carcasses are free of contamination, and neither Canada nor the U.S. tolerates contamination on food animal carcasses."