The CCA continues to monitor the Zilmax situation in the U.S. To date we are not aware of similar situations or findings in Canada. The CCA is monitoring the theories, current science and ongoing studies and if required will work with the Canadian industry to undertake further work.
Mechanically Tenderized Beef
On May 21, 2014, Health Canada published an amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations in Canada Gazette Part II that requires any mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) sold in Canada to be labelled as such, including with safe cooking instructions. Mechanical tenderization of meat is a practice that has been used by processors, food services and retailers for many years to improve the tenderness of beef. The objective of this regulation is to identify MTB when it is offered for sale and to provide consistent and appropriate safe cooking information to all Canadians. These regulations came into force on August 21, 2014.
Health Canada requires the following statements to be included on the principal display panels:
a) Identification as: ‘mechanically tenderized’
b) Safe cooking instructions: ‘Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 63oC (145oF)’
c) And, in the case of steaks, an additional safe cooking instruction to help achieve a consistent temperature throughout: ‘Turn steak over at least twice during cooking.’ Turning the steak over at least twice ensures more even heating which enhances both food safety and eating quality.
The CCA instigated the research which supports the new labels which included both laboratory as well as a national survey of Canadians as part of its E.coli O157 Research and Education strategy. The laboratory research was completed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lacombe Research Centre and was financially supported by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency as well as the Beef Cattle Research Council.
For the purpose of this regulation, MTB refers to uncooked, solid cuts of beef that has been prepared by mechanical tenderization. Mechanical tenderization is a process where the integrity of the beef surface has been compromised by being punctured by blades or needles, or by the injection of a solution or marinade. The process can enhance the eating quality of beef, especially beef made from parts of the animal used in locomotion which are naturally tougher. Mechanical tenderization can also occur at home, as tenderizing tools intended for home use are available to Canadian consumers.
In February 2017 the Government of Canada published amendments in Canada Gazette II permitting irradiation of raw fresh and frozen 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.
Irradiation is 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.
Indeed, the food safety aspects of irradiation were the driver behind the CCA’s submission of the original petition in 1998 and its ongoing efforts over the last 20 years to amend the regulation. The CCA believes that Canadians should be able to choose to purchase ground beef treated by irradiation given that it is a scientifically proven and highly effective means to enhance food safety.
The availability of irradiated ground beef will take time to establish and will depend on consumer demand for this type of product. Once available, irradiated ground beef will be labelled with the radura symbol (see symbol at right). Canadian cattle producers strongly support making this an informed choice with labelling and other educational initiatives.
The Government of Canada review of the safety and effectiveness of irradiation of fresh and frozen raw ground beef concluded that the use of irradiation in accordance with the Canadian regulations is safe, effective, and does not significantly impact nutritional quality.
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.
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle is a set of science-informed and expert-vetted guidelines for everyday practices used in the raising of beef cattle. Code guidelines are not regulation, they are recommended practices put forth by industry experts as science-informed proper animal care. Producers can defer to the Code knowing the recommended guidelines are based on the latest knowledge and science. The Code will also help consumers better understand the practices used in beef cattle production and provide assurances that all guidelines are rooted in proper animal care. The CCA encourages producers to familiarize themselves with the renewed Code and incorporate the practices within in order to ensure that they continue to practice the best animal care possible.
The CCA is a member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC brings together animal producer groups, governments, veterinarians, academics, the animal welfare movement, transporters and other stakeholders to, among other things, review and renew Codes of Practice.
The Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) continues to operate and evolve. In December 2014, the CCA partnered with ViewTrak Technologies, a world-class technology and traceability company based in Edmonton, to enhance and expand the BIXS. Under the partnership, a new privately-held company takes ownership of BIXS, with the CCA and ViewTrak as initial shareholders. The new company, called BIXSco Inc., is headed by Hubert Lau, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Ted Power, Executive Vice-President.