New rules proposed for listeria control
The CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is considering new, stricter, regulations for listeria testing at meat processing plants in the aftermath of an listeriosis outbreak that killed 20 people in Canada this summer.
According to a CBC/Toronto Star report, the new regulations will require two new tests: an environmental test for areas surrounding the production lines, and a proximal test, of surfaces -- such as slicer blades and counter surfaces -- that come into contact with meat during manufacture.
A positive test for the disease-causing strain, Listeria monocytogenes, anywhere in the production area would require the meat itself to be placed in quarantine, followed by a facility and equipment clean-up, and then a retesting. If a second test indicated the listeria was still present, the quarantined meat would be sampled, and if the product sample tested positive for listeria, the meat would be destroyed.
As described, the proposed CFIA regulations would also require more vigilance by federal inspectors, and a more frequent and detailed reporting obligation on the part of the manufacturer.
CFIA spokesperson Marc Richard confirmed that new regulations will soon be introduced, although he didn't say when.
According to an internal document obtained by the CBC and the Toronto Star, Maple Leaf Foods has already adapted its internal testing standards since its Toronto-area processing plant was identified as the source of the listeriosis outbreak in August.
The new rules would also require companies such as Maple Leaf to report a trend of positive listeria findings to government inspectors, according to Rick Holley, a professor of microbiology and food safety at the University of Manitoba and a member of an advisory panel recently struck by the CFIA.
That requirement was dropped in April, a previous CBC and Toronto Star investigation revealed.
"It's much like an early warning system," Holley said.
"Where you're manufacturing cook-cured meat product and where it's refrigerated, you will expect to find, over a period of time, reservoirs of this organism which are coming into the plant."
The advisory panel could begin reviewing the proposed testing requirements as soon as next month.