Meat, including poultry and fish, is extremely vulnerable to contamination by disease causing micro-organisms or pathogens for a variety of reasons.
Some of these reasons include:
- Meat is high in protein and moisture. Both are needed for the multiplication of pathogens, such as Listeria. As the number of pathogens in a food increases, so does the likelihood that someone eating that food will experience food borne illness. It is critical that the slaughterhouses (abattoirs) and meat processing facilities are hygienic and operated in a sanitary manner to reduce the likelihood of contamination of the meat.
- Animals that are slaughtered for meat carry pathogens that may also make humans sick. To reduce the likelihood that an animal for slaughter is carrying a disease that could affect humans, it is important that animals are inspected prior to and during the slaughter process. In BC, government inspectors carry out this function. It is a requirement that all meat sold in BC is inspected. The requirements for this inspection process are outlined in the BC Meat Inspection Regulations.
Potential Risk of Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products
Recent verotoxigenic E. coli illness outbreaks linked to mechanically tenderized raw beef products have shown that these products may represent a higher level of risk as compared to whole, intact beef cuts. As such, Health Canada is in the process of conducting a health risk assessment of raw beef that has been mechanically tenderized. While this review is being done, Health Canada is encouraging Canadians to cook all mechanically tenderized beef products to an internal temperature of at least 71°C (160°F). Reaching an internal temperature of 71°C would cook a steak or roast to approximately “medium” doneness, although a food thermometer should be used to be sure that the safe internal temperature is reached. It is difficult to determine if meat has been mechanically tenderized just by looking at it. As well, mechanically tenderized meat is not required to be labeled in Canada. If you are not sure that the meat you are considering buying is mechanically tenderized, ask your butcher or retailer. If they do not know, either don’t buy the meat, or be sure you cook the meat to an internal temperature of at least 71°C.
More information from Health Canada on mechanically tenderized beef.
Opening or operating a meat plant?
If you are interested in constructing a provincially licenced meat plant, there are a number of resources available that will aid you. While not complicated, it is a step by step process.
Food processing facilities, including meat and meat processing plants, are responsible for ensuring the products they produce are safe to consume. The HACCP system or Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points is used by food processors to ensure the production of safe food. The HACCP system is a program which identifies and analyzes the potential food safety hazards in the food processing facility. The program then puts steps in place to ensure that those potential hazards cannot affect the final food product. The HACCP system can be thought of a system that prevents problems before they happen.
Guidelines for Provincially licensed plants (Slaughterhouses)
Guidelines for the Safe Transport of Carcasses, Poultry and Meat Products
An important aspect of ensuring meat is safe to consume is how meat is transported after the slaughterhouse. This applies to anyone who handles, transports, distributes and stores meat products and carcasses destined for public sale and human consumption. This includes owners and operators of food premises, such as licensed slaughter facilities, butcher shops, food retailers and those who transport meat products to any of these facilities. A guideline has been developed that provides guidance for the safe transportation for carcasses, poultry and meat products.
Guideline for Cutting and Wrapping Uninspected Meat
This document provides guidance to approved food premises (e.g., butcher shops) that provide cut-and-wrap services for uninspected meat and/or game. Following this guideline should result in compliance with the general sanitation provisions of the Food Premises Regulation. The final outcome of this guideline is to ensure that inspected meat in BC is not contaminated.
Guideline for Donation of Culled Game Meat
These standards apply to situations in which wild ungulates are culled for management purposes and the meat is subsequently made available through a donation system. The high protein and low fat meat obtained from game animals, can greatly increase the dietary diversity and nutrition of economically disadvantaged recipients. As such, the benefits of donating wild game meat in these circumstances can outweigh any disadvantages or costs such a program may entail. All meat derived from these culls must be processed by approved facilities and must be donated to individuals or families for their personal consumption only, or to food bank intermediaries.
The information on these pages represent the work we do on behalf of the public, industry and government. Some of this information was written for the general public and some was written in technical language for public health.
Food Protection Services phone 604.707.2440
NCC Environmental Health phone 604.829.2551
Poison Control Centre phone 604.682.5050 or 1.800.567.8911