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let's talk farm animals

Recalls happen for a reason, but reasons aren’t an excuse

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

Recalls happen either because a company finds a problem on its own or is informed of a problem by someone else, after the product has gone out the door. For farmers and food companies, prevention is the ticket to avoiding these events as well as the financial and public relations fallout associated with an outbreak of food-borne illness. To avoid food recalls means starting at the farm.

In Canada we’ve had programs to reduce microbial and other food safety risks at the farm level for many years. For most commodities it is now a requirement to follow these programs if a farmer wants to be allowed to sell their animals, milk and eggs, or produce to food companies.

One example is Canada’s egg farmers who first created a formal on-farm food safety program following an outbreak of Salmonella in eggs back in the 1990’s. Egg farmers today are required to follow a set of rules if they want to produce eggs for the retail market. Those rules include using approved sanitation methods for barns and eggs, animal health procedures such as pest control (pests transmit diseases) and following proper medication procedures when treating sick animals, plus proper storage of manure, animal feeds and eggs to reduce contamination. Other types of farmers now follow similar programs for their particular crops or livestock farms.

The rules don’t stop at the farm gate though, and processors and food manufacturers also have similar food safety requirements in place. It is clearly in their best interest to do so, and to change their practices when and if they need changing.

We all remember the Maple Leaf Foods Listeria outbreak in 2008 that tragically killed at least 20 people and sickened many others.  The Maple Leaf outbreak alone has resulted in needed changes in the manufacturing of ready-made meat products, where this natural bacterium is most frequently found.  The Maple Leaf incident also led to changes in government inspection guidelines and food recall policies. Food is presumably safer as a result.

In the U.S., recent data supports that notion. Following the infamous Jack-in-the-Box food poisoning incident which brought “Hamburger Disease” to food industry and public attention, a co-ordinated approach by the meat industry and government has greatly reduced the risk of this pathogen.  New federal government data show that E. coli O157:H7 is found in less than one quarter of one percent of ground beef samples, a 72 percent decline since 2000. And just as TB led to mandatory pasteurization of milk nearly 100 years ago, food-borne outbreaks of illness and disease will continue to guide our food laws.

Until the next BLOG.



Posted by OFAC on June 20th, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,eggs,Food safety,Meat/slaughter plants
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