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Funds pledged for provincial packer pilot projects

Paperwork is now available for provincially-inspected meat processors to apply to take part in pilot projects aimed at freeing up interprovincial trade in meat.

The federal government on Monday pledged up to $3 million for the series of pilots as per an agreement between the federal and provincial agriculture ministers at their meeting in Saskatoon in July.

Individual provinces and industry bodies will be “invited to contribute” to those selected pilot projects, the government said.

Provincial packers and processors interested in taking part are asked to apply by Jan. 7, 2011 in their respective provinces. Information about this project, including how to apply and to whom in participating jurisdictions — all 10 provinces and the Yukon territory — is available online.

Businesses are to be picked for the pilots “based on the goal of providing an appropriate representation of meat processing activities across Canada,” which means reflecting a representative sample of species, meat processing activities and plant sizes, the government said.

Starting in February 2011, officials would work with pilot participants to validate new inspection procedures, collect samples and information, and sort through what technical procedures could be adapted to “better reflect the operating environments of meat processors of all sizes,” the federal government said in a release.

Participating pilot plants would continue to be serviced by their current inspection authority as per their normal arrangements, the government said. But throughout the pilot project, federal and provincial authorities would also jointly visit the pilot plant, collect information, run evaluations and validate new procedures for inspections.

Pilots would still operate under their current rules during the initial phases of work, but at the end of the process, pilots would have to meet a modified version of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Manual of Procedures (MOP) and Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) manual, along with other applicable CFIA regulations to become federally registered.

The Meat Inspection Regulations would require a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) plan, but reviewed to ensure a “suitable” adaptation of technical requirements for plants of small and medium size, the government said. Businesses completing the pilot process would need to meet the revised procedures.

By the time they complete the pilot process, participating plants would be federally registered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency — as long as they meet all federal requirements and operate under the revised procedures drafted for them.

“Inhibited”

Current federal meat inspection legislation blocks provincially-inspected meat plants from selling meat in Canada beyond the borders of a plant’s home province. Federally-inspected plants may ship meat anywhere within Canada as well as for export.

The idea of allowing provincially-inspected plants to sell their products in other provinces has been discussed for years but until now hasn’t gained much traction.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made such changes in 2009 to allow interstate trade of state-inspected beef.

“The interprovincial sale of meat is inhibited by standards that vary between the provinces and territories and we want to change that,” Manitoba’s agriculture minister Stan Struthers said in a separate release Monday, encouraging provincial-grade packers to apply for the pilot projects.

“Lessons learned from this pilot project will help us develop better food-safety requirements that maintain high standards and at the same time allow businesses to expand their markets, benefiting the local economy.”

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