USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service will be keeping a closer eye on meat and poultry imports from Canada. It will include stepped up testing as well as a more thorough review of Canada's food safety and inspection system.
The tests that FSIS will increase include Salmonella, Listeria Monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7, says USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond. Shipments be held until testing is complete and products are confirmed negative for the pathogens. There also will be increased re-inspection efforts to confirm that they are eligible to pass through the U.S. border.
This action follows an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that caused illnesses in eight states as part of the Topps Meat Company recall. Still, Topps was not the E. coli source; it was Ranchers Beef Ltd., a Canadian firm that sold Topps beef trimmings for hamburger.
So, the focus will start with companies that export beef to the United States, says Raymond.
Of course, the Canadian meat industry is not happy about the development. One beef-industry official reacted that the US. testing policy amounts to "a disruption of trade, a disruption of price and a disruption of production" that "simply can't be justified." Some argue that it violates existing treaty obligations under the North American Free-Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.
Raymond says the new testing requirements are "interim" measures, and that they could be lifted after USDA finalizes its audit of Canada's food safety and inspection system.