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Ottawa To Bring in Tougher Testing For Listeria in Food Plants


November 7, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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November 7, 2008- Ottawa is about to unveil tougher new listeria testing rules in food plants across the country.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is overhauling its protocols to demand tighter surveillance and greater transparency after the deadly bacteria outbreak at a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.

The outbreak linked to listeria-tainted cold cuts claimed at least 20 lives and sickened hundreds more.

New protocols designed to give more protection for consumers will be reviewed by an expert panel of food safety experts early next month, before being approved by CFIA bosses.

They include:

  • Mandatory testing of plant surfaces such as countertops and meat slicers by company staff, as well as non-contact surfaces such as walls, ceilings and drains.
  • Mandatory testing of ready-to-eat meat products by CFIA inspectors at least three times a year.
  • Food will have to be quarantined and tested for listeria whenever plant surface testing turns up two subsequent positives.

The new rules will also reinstate a rule compelling companies to report a trend of positive listeria findings to government inspectors, says Rick Holley, a food safety expert at the University of Manitoba and a member of a newly formed CFIA panel of external experts advising the agency on food safety.

CFIA spokesman Marc Richard confirmed Thursday night that new listeria protocols are on the way.

"There are proposals that have been drafted for discussion purposes, however there is nothing finalized and there is no set implementation date.''

The longstanding duty to inform inspectors of positive tests was dropped in April, just prior to the Maple Leaf outbreak, a Star/CBC investigation reported last month.