Today the Government of Canada published amendments in Canada Gazette II permitting irradiation of raw fresh and fro-zen ground beef. Purchasing irradiated ground beef is now a choice for Canadian consumers, the same choice that has been available in the U.S. for more than a decade. The availability of irradiated ground beef will take time to establish and will depend on consumer demand for this type of product.
The Government of Canada has completed its review of the safety and effectiveness of irradiation of fresh and frozen raw ground beef and concluded that the use of irradiation in accordance with the Canadian regulations is safe, effective, and does not significantly impact nutritional quality. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has long supported the principle that Canadians should be able to choose to purchase ground beef treated by irradiation, a scientifically proven and highly effective means to enhance food safety. The ability of irradiation to reduce E.coli O157 and other pathogenic E.coli is well established. When combined with food safety interventions already in use, irradiation could essentially eliminate E.coli related illness associated with ground beef.
The path toward approval of beef irradiation in Canada began in 1998 with the CCA’s submission of the original petition. The CCA’s ongoing efforts between then and now to amend the regulation reflects the association’s steadfast commitment to enhancing food safety and to providing Canadians the choice to purchase beef treated with this proven intervention.
Irradiation is an effective technology already approved for other foods in Canada and used as a normal course of business in 60 countries around the world to improve food safety for consumers. Irradiated ground beef has been available for purchase by U.S. consumers since 2000 along with a growing list of other types of irradiated food products. The option to treat foods with irradiation to enhance food safety is supported by the majority of Canadians and the Consumer Association of Canada.
Beef irradiation can be performed using electricity to create energy which can destroy harmful bacteria. This process, called E-beam, uses ordinary electricity and does not involve radioactivity and is routinely used in the U.S. where irradiated beef products have been available to consumers since May of 2000.
The amendments allow, but not require, the beef industry to use irradiation as a tool to improve the safety of their products. Like all other irradiated foods, irradiated ground beef will be clearly labelled as such in accordance with the existing labelling requirements set out in regulations.
Canadian cattle producers strongly support making this an informed choice with labelling and other educational initiatives.
Background on the approval process
The path toward approval of beef irradiation in Canada began in 1998 with the CCA’s submission of the original petition.
In May 2013, CCA submitted the necessary paperwork requested by Health Canada to restart the process for approval of beef irradiation in Canada. Health Canada completed two scientific reviews, the first in 2001 and the second in November 2013, with both reviews determining ground beef irradiation was safe and effective.
The Health Canada scientific review process has confirmed that irradiation causes minor changes to food, similar to cooking, and does not lead to any change in beef that would have an adverse effect on human health or that would sig-nificantly diminish its nutritional value.
Food irradiation does not lead to chemical changes in food that would have an adverse effect on human health. Microorganisms that may be present in the food, including disease-causing bacteria, are reduced or eliminated. Irradiation cannot be used to restore the eating quality of food that is already spoiled. If food looks, smells or tastes bad before irradiation, it will still look, smell and taste bad after irradiation. Irradiation of food items also does not make them radioactive.
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Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
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