Beef Safety

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) safeguards by enforcement of food safety and nutritional quality regulations. The CFIA monitors all establishments that export beef and beef products to international markets and has the authority for administration and enforcement of Canada’s Meat Inspection Act under federal law. The Agency also sets standards for animal health and carries out related enforcement and inspection.

The National Cattle Identification System is enforced by the CFIA under the authority provided by Canadian federal law. Each animal must have an ear tag approved by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) and encoded with a unique identification number when leaving the original herd. Canada’s mandatory cattle identification system utilizes radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags and an internet database to enable rapid and accurate animal information.

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Residue Testing Program

Canada’s National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP) tests samples of beef fat, muscle tissue and internal organs for chemical residues. Testing is performed for veterinary drugs as well as other agricultural and industrial chemicals, Any finding of chemical residues is evaluated to determine if there is a violation of Canada’s maximum residue limits which are enforced under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act. In the very rare event that a violation is found, an investigation is conducted and further compliance testing is conducted.

Cattle Feed Safety System

Canada’s enhanced feed ban (effective July 12, 2007) bans specified risk material (SRM) from all animal feed, pet food and fertilizer. Under the enhanced feed ban, requirements are specified for anyone handling, transporting or disposing of cattle remains, including renderers; fertilizers, pet food and feed manufacturers; waste management facilities; and veterinarians. A CFIA permit is required to transport and receive SRM in any form. As well, livestock producers must no longer use any feed products containing SRM. The regulations of the enhance feed ban are mandatory and regulated by Federal law. There is no part of these regulations or program that is voluntary.

The CFIA administers a national livestock feed program to verify that livestock feeds are manufactured and sold in accordance with the federal Feeds Act. This program includes evaluation by Feed Section personnel of products before sale and post-market inspection and monitoring by CFIA field staff located throughout Canada.

Animal Disease Surveillance

The CFIA Animal Disease Surveillance Unit work to detect and respond to potentially emerging animal diseases. Through the formation of a nationwide network, the disease detection capabilities of Canada’s veterinarians, provincial and university diagnostic laboratories and the federal government are combined. Canada communicates the results of its surveillance for reportable diseases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The exchange of information is an important part of Canada’s commitment to work with other nations to establish the best approaches to protecting animal and human health.

Systems On the Farm

Protecting the Breeding Herd

The health of Canada’s breeding herd is protected by controls on importation of livestock genetics. The Animal Health and Production Division of the CFIA determines if importation of animals, embryos or semen will be permitted based on a detailed assessment including a review of the exporting country’s animal health status. Canada maintains programs for point-of-entry inspection and quarantine as well as foreign animal disease (FAD) testing at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease.

Identifying Calves

Calves are uniquely identified by a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency ear tag. The National Cattle Identification System enhances Animal health by supporting the containment and eradication of animal disease through its trace back capabilities. Food safely for the consumer is also enhance through the contribution of the ID system to the health of the cattle on the farm.

Systems At Slaughter

Canadian veterinarians and inspectors strictly enforce the humane handling and slaughter of cattle. In addition to strong regulations, the Canadian cattle industry developed a voluntary Code of Practice to ensure that animals are treated with respect. This Code of Practice defines the minimum standards of care for feeding, housing, transporting, and overall handling of cattle. This is an important and unique aspect of cattle production in Canada.

Live Animal Inspection

Under Canadian law, each animal must undergo antemortem (before slaughter) screening by trained operators to detect potential illness or injury. CFIA personnel then conduct a further antemortem inspection including a detailed assessment of any animal showing evidence of disease by a official veterinarian. Cattle not meeting animal health requirements are clearly identified, segregated from other cattle and completely excluded from meat production.

Stunning Procedures

Healthy animals are stunned in a humane manner using only methods approved by the CFIA. Stunning techniques involving air injection or pithing that could result in the contamination of blood with neurological tissue are prohibited by law.

Carcass Identification

Following the removal of the hide, it s a requirement under the Health of Animals Regulation that the animal ID tag be attached to the carcass to maintain its unique identity. The head is also tagged before separation from the carcass and prepared for inspection by the CFIA


Following postmortem inspection of the head, the tongue and cheek meat are removed from healthy animals and all specified risk materials are disposed of in a container used exclusively fo this purpose.

A postmortem inspection of the thoracic and abdominal viscera including lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and digestive tract is also conducted by the CFIA following evisceration. Approved offals are removed for chilling and packing after removal of the distal ileum as required under Canad’s BSE controls.

The carcass is split and a careful inspection of the external and internal surfaces of the split carcass is made by government personnel.

Removal of the spinal cord gy an approved method, such as the use of a high power vacuum device, is required by law. Application of the Meat Hygiene Legend to the carcass occurs only after removal of the spinal cord and successful completion of all post mortem inspection procedures.

Following trimming, the carcass is subjected to one or more washing steps. Due to its ability to effective reduce any bacteria on meat surfaces, carcasses typically undergo a brief exposure to steam or hot water. Carcasses are then chilled and microbiological testing can be used to verify the effectiveness of the HACCP plan for cattle slaughter.

Systems At the Meat Plant

Canada’s food safety systems for meat plants are based on the internationally-recognized Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) model. A complete HACCP system is mandatory for all Canadian meat plants exporting beef products and require both prerequisite programs as well as HACCP plans.

HACCP plans function through the use of critical control points (CCP’s) which are monitored by specially trained employees to control potential food safety risks. CCPs are determined by conducting a comprehensive analysis of possible biological, physical or chemical hazards associated with each step in a process and all ingredients and packaging. The effectiveness of the HACCP plan is checked by verification procedures which utilize laboratory tests or other procedures approve by the CFIA.

All meat products must have a HCCP plan and if a new meat item is produced it cannot be marketed until a HACCP plan for that production process is developed. Suppliers of meat ingredients as well as cold storage and freezer facilities must also have HACCP systems. To ensure the HACCP system is functioning correctly, each operation is required to undergo audits by the CFIA. These audits include review of HACCP documentation and records as well as on-site audits of monitoring and verification procedures for CCPs.

BSE Prevention and Control Systems

Canada’s BSE prevention and control systems have been developed in in accordance with the recommendations made by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The OIE membership includes 167 countries who work together to set standards for BSE control measures.

In Canada, federal law requires the removal of all specified risk materials (SRMs) from beef carcasses and prohibits the export and use of SRMs in food for human consumption. Stunning techniques involving air injection or pithing that could result in the contamination of blood with neurological tissue are prohibited by law. Controls for advanced meat recovery systems have also been implemented in accordance with OIE recommendations.

Canada’s National Cattle Identification program supports the containment and eradication of BSE through its trace back capabilities. Canada is the first country in North America to have this type of system. Canada controls imports of animals from coutnries that have had BSE cases and since 1990 has banned live cattle imports from regions that have had BSE epidemics.

Canada enhanced its feed ban to include all specified risk material (SRM) from all animal feed, pet food and fertilizer.

Canada maintains an ongoing targeted BSE surveillance program in accordance with OIE standards and continues to develop scientific expertise in testing methods. In July 2006, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease was designated as a Reference Laboratory for BSE by the OIE. This is the first laboratory to achieve this status in North America.