Groups voice concerns about joint U.S.-Canada meat inspection pilot program

A pilot program aimed at streamlining meat inspection at the U.S.-Canadian border has some food safety and consumer groups concerned.

A part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, the pilot program results will help determine if a small number of businesses can achieve pre-clearance for fresh beef and pork shipments across the border, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Several groups, including Food & Water Watch and the National Consumers League, voiced concerns about how the program would work, according to Food Safety News (FSN).

In a letter sent to the USDA, the groups cite concerns about eliminating meat inspections before the product enters the U.S. and have issues with equivalent standards between the countries, FSN reports.

The pilot program kicked off this month and will run for a year. Participants include a small number of Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-registered facilities that export fresh beef and pork straight to FSIS-inspected plants in the U.S., according to a FSIS factsheet.

Other criteria for participation included:

  • Consistent regulatory compliance history.
  • Must conduct regular business across the U.S.-Canadian border.
  • No public health violations found by FSIS at the port of entry.
  • Company must be able to control the flow of the product.

Additionally, the products will be physically inspected for “zero tolerance violations” such as fecal matter, according to FSIS.

Once the pilot program is complete next September, FSIS will analyze the information and decide which establishments will receive pre-clearance.

In their letter, the groups opposed to the program asked for the pilot study to be halted, according to FSN.

Beyond the Border was announced last February by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It aims to help “trusted business and travelers move efficiently across the border,” therefore supporting trade between the U.S. and Canada, according to FSIS.

To read the full Food Safety News story, click here.

To read the fact sheet from FSIS, click here.

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