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Green Light For VBP Updates

The Verified Beef Production (VBP) program has received a renewed stamp of approval from the On-Farm Food Safety Recognition Program of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

This recognition program, overseen by CFIA with the assistance of joint federal/provincial teams, provides official government oversight for on-farm food safety programs in Canada, to ensure they are technically sound and appropriately adapt the internationally recognized approach of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

VBP first successfully obtained recognition from the program in 2003 and has maintained this status ever since.

However, all recognized programs are expected to regularly review their requirements and implement improvements. The updated programs are then “re-reviewed” by CFIA to ensure they continue to adapt HACCP appropriately and translate requirements effectively in their producer materials.

VBP MAINTAINS RECOGNIZED PROGRAM STATUS

“This continued recognition is very important for our producers, consumers and both domestic and international customers,” says Terry Grajczyk, VBP program manager. “It reinforces that the VBP program is technically sound, meets internationally recognized standards and has ongoing oversight by those with appropriate technical expertise and authority.”

This recognition is expected to become increasingly important for international market access as well as specific promotion efforts, says Grajczyk. “We see trading partners and markets are starting to look for this status when they decide who to do business with.”

The VBP program is a grassroots, voluntary program. Many producers participate to capture the growing marketing advantage of being able to provide verification that they follow good on-farm food safety practices. However, the VBP program is also part of a broad, global trend in food production toward verified food safety standards.

PROACTIVE APPROACH

In Canada, the VBP program is one of the first on-farm food safety programs to develop improvements and submit them for re-review.

The program uses a HACCPbased model, designed for application in an on-farm beef production environment. HACCP is an internationally recognized food safety system based on identifying critical controls points.

HACCP-based programs are in place in all federally processed plants for meat and other products. Packing plants have made substantial investments to implement HACCP-based programs at the plant level and the expectation is they will soon want to source their inputs from HACCP-based programs.

The successful completion of CFIA review is specifically for two VBP program components: the VBP adaptation of the HACCP model and the VBP Producer Manual, both of which were updated.

“HACCP is a very proactive approach to food safety,” says Grajczyk. Regular review and improvement for HACCP-based programs is not only encouraged but expected.

FINE-TUNING AND SIMPLIFYING

The major producer document used in the VBP program is the Producer Manual, which includes standard operating procedures (SOPs) for management practices in five areas, designed to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a food safety concern on a beef cattle operation. These areas include: animal health management, feed and water, cattle shipping, pesticide control and manure, and training and communication.

For ease of use requirements in the Producer Manual were separated into two categories: “Must Dos” and those simply “recommended,” with the Must Dos highlighted in the manual for faster, simpler reference.

This flexibility with recommended approaches allows producers to apply only those that make sense for their particular operations. For one example, producers who have limited access to veterinarians will have clearer direction on what

they absolutely need a vet for, with flexibility to handle recommended approaches in ways that are practical for their situation.

Beef producers themselves played a critical role in the fine-tuning process, says Grajczyk. “The requirements were initiated by a technical team, and then reviewed by beef producers with an aim to keep the program current, practical and streamlined.”

Overall, this resulted in an updated program with:

Wording and format adjustments to improve clarity and easy use

Continued focus on meeting withdrawal times for animal health products or feed medications.

Continued focus to reduce the potential for broken needle fragments in live cattle.

Simpler record keeping requirements.

Simpler auditing procedures for those needing this option.

Greater flexibility for producers to meet individual needs.

Removal of signed protocol requirements.

KEEPING CANADA COMPETITIVE

The overall result is stronger competitiveness for Canada’s beef industry, as food safety continues to grow as a major factor in consumer buying decisions, says Grajczyk.

“Though the program concentrates on food safety up to the farm gate level, VBP is also designed to complement additional food safety efforts further up the supply chain. This supports Canada’s reputation for food safety throughout the world, which ultimately benefits all Canadian beef producers and our industry.”

Cost of adjustments was partially funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Food Safety and Food Quality Program.

Managed by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, representing the interests of Canada’s beef producers, Verified Beef Production is Canada’s auditable on-farm food safety program. Originally introduced as a general education program, it has since expanded to include an option for producer validation. More information is available at the VBP Web site at www.verifiedbeef.org.

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