Aseries of test projects allowing provincial abattoirs to sell meat to other provinces could soon go into effect.
Nineteen pilot projects to permit interprovincial trading of meat products will soon be launched across Canada, federal and provincial agriculture ministers said last week.
The move comes seven months after ministers at their last meeting promised to enable provincially inspected meat plants to sell outside their borders.
“This announcement follows our commitment last July to break down provincial barriers while safeguarding Canada’s world-class food safety system,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a Feb. 11 news conference in Toronto to conclude the ministers’ regular semi-annual meeting.
“It makes no sense for an abattoir or processor in Quebec or Alberta to ship his product to the U.S. easier than he can ship them into a next-door province.”
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers indicated at least one plant in this province will be involved in a project but he would not say which one. Manitoba has about two dozen provincial plants of varying sizes.
“It’s a little too early to announce but we’re very interested in participating,” Struthers said after the meeting. “I’m confident we will be part of that.”
But governments will first have to cut through a maze of regulations to enable provincial plants to sell meat to other jurisdictions.
Currently, under the Meat Inspection Act, only federally licensed plants may sell meat interprovincially and abroad. Provincially certified plants may not because they do not meet the requirements of the federal statute.
The pilot projects will seek ways to simplify standards and procedures governing large federal plants to allow smaller provincial processors to trade interprovincially, said Ritz.
“You may have 16 pages on washing your hands for a processor that has 500 or 600 employees. But when you employ five, maybe you don’t need 37 pages to explain it,” he said.
“The idea is to go to a provincially regulated plant and be able to use that facility and still maintain the national standard. We think we can do that. That’s the nature of this pilot.”
Struthers said he felt standardization can be achieved without having to revise legislation or compromise food safety.
Even if they can meet federal requirements, provincial plants will not be allowed to export to other countries. That would require meeting even higher international standards. Only a few processors in Canada qualify to export. [email protected]
– STAN STRUTHERS