Annex B: Foreign Country Meat Inspection Regulatory Systems Evaluation Program

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1. Scope

This program applies to importation of meat and meat products, as defined in the following Canadian legislation:

Meat Inspection Act
Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990
Health of Animals Act
Health of Animals Regulations

2. Introduction

The Canadian legislation requires that imported meat products, unless specifically exempted (refer to section 10.2.4 of Chapter 10), meet the same standards and requirements as if they were produced in registered establishments in Canada. It also requires that the exporting country's inspection and certification system along with the establishments operating under that system, be approved by the CFIA, before meat products are allowed to be imported to Canada.

To approve the exporting country's inspection and certification system, the CFIA follows a process of equivalency evaluation based upon provisions in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Agreement requires each member to accept as equivalent the meat inspection and certification system of another country if it has been demonstrated to furnish the same level of public and/or animal health protection as is provided by its own system.

The CFIA evaluates foreign meat inspection and certification systems for equivalence through document review, on-site reviews and inspection of meat products at the time of importation. The initial approval and subsequent maintenance evaluations of foreign systems equivalency are essential for the CFIA and Canadian consumers to develop and maintain confidence that imported meat products are and continue to be safe and comply with Canadian requirements. The degree of confidence the CFIA has in safety of imported meat products is directly related to how effectively the food production is regulated by the foreign system.

3. Legal Basis

Section 9 of the Meat Inspection Act requires that meat products may be imported to Canada only from countries that have a national meat inspection system and the establishments operating under that system approved, for that purpose, by the Minister (the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). This authority has been delegated to the Director, Meat Programs Division (MPD) of the CFIA.

The Act also requires that at the time of importation, the importer provides an Inspector with evidence satisfactory to the Minister that it meets the standards prescribed for imported meat products and that the imported meat product actually meets the standards prescribed for imported meat products, including the packaging and labelling. This legislated requirement is being satisfied by the CFIA requirement for an Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC), issued by the competent authority of the exporting country, to accompany each shipment of meat products certified for export to Canada.

The OMIC also serves as zoo-sanitary certificate of origin for the purposes of the Health of Animals Act and Health of Animals Regulations. For this purpose, before the system is approved and the OMIC is established, the MPD consults with the Terrestrial Animal Health Division of the CFIA and animal health conditions/restrictions are defined, according to the animal health situation in the applicant country. The animal health conditions shall be included in the attestations to be placed on the OMIC, in addition to the public health attestations.

Meat Inspection Act

9.(1) No person shall import a meat product into Canada unless:

  • (a) at the time it was prepared for export, the country from which it originated and any country in which it was processed had meat inspection systems, those systems and the relevant establishments in those countries were approved in writing by the Minister before that time and the approvals were valid at that time;
  • (b) that person provides an Inspector with evidence satisfactory to the Minister that it meets the prescribed standards for imported meat products;
  • (c) it meets the prescribed standards for imported meat products; and,
  • (d) it is packaged and labelled in the manner prescribed.

The Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 prescribe standards for imported meat products. The standards are the same as those applied to meat products prepared in Canadian Registered Establishments for the Canadian market, except for the requirements specified in the section 123.

Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990

A meat product may be imported into Canada if:

  • (a) the compositional standards and labelling requirements for the meat product are the standards and labelling requirements to which the meat product would have to conform if it were produced in a registered establishment in Canada;
  • (b) a code has not been used to replace the processing establishment number on a hermetically sealed container in which a meat product is packaged;
  • (c) in the case of a meat product identified as edible, instead of being marked or stamped with the meat inspection legend, the meat product has been marked with the official inspection mark of the government of the country of origin, prescribed by the national legislation of that country, to indicate that the meat product has been prepared in an establishment operating in accordance with the national meat inspection legislation of that country;
  • (d) the words "Product of" and "Produit de" followed by the name of the country of origin, are marked in a conspicuous manner in close proximity to the identity of the meat product on the label used in connection with the meat product;
  • (e) in the case of a meat product identified for use as animal food, the label shall bear the words "Plant Number" or "Numéro d'usine" followed by the number of the foreign establishment in which the meat product was prepared; and,
  • (f) the meat product was manufactured in an establishment that was operating under a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles based system determined by the President to be equivalent to the Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) established by the Agency.

4. General Principles

The system approval may cover all species of food animals or it may be limited to the species of interest at the time of application. For the purposes of system approval, the CFIA considers the following inspection systems as being different and consequently are viewed as separate systems:

  1. beef and veal - slaughter, cutting and offal, natural salted animal intestinal casings;
  2. sheep, lamb, goat - slaughter, cutting and offal, natural salted animal intestinal casings;
  3. farmed ruminant game - slaughter, cutting and offal, natural salted animal intestinal casings;
  4. pig and farmed wild boar - slaughter, cutting and offal, natural salted animal intestinal casings;
  5. poultry and farmed feathered game - slaughter, cutting and offal;
  6. ratites - slaughter, cutting and offal;
  7. equine animals - slaughter, cutting and offal;
  8. rabbit - slaughter, cutting and offal; and,
  9. processing - comminuting, formulating, curing, cooking and canning.

4.1 Foreign Country System Evaluation

4.1.1 Initial System Approval Evaluation

The initial evaluation of foreign countries' meat inspection systems is carried out through document review and on-site review. Findings of the evaluation are reviewed by a committee consisting of senior officials of the MPD and, if found acceptable, the system is approved. Evaluation procedures are described in section 5.

Following a successful initial evaluation, the foreign system is approved and the initial list of establishments eligible to export meat products to Canada may be established. Additional establishments, within the approved systems, will be added to the list by the CFIA upon receipt of a guarantee from the competent authority of the exporting country that the establishments comply with all Canadian requirements. These establishments will be targeted for on-site review during subsequent visits.

The initial inspection system approval evaluation, i.e. both the documents and the on-site reviews, will be funded by the CFIA. Expenses associated with maintenance assessment may have to be recovered from the exporting country.

4.1.2 Validation and Maintenance of the Approved System

The CFIA will evaluate the foreign countries' inspection programs following the initial system approval to ensure the approved systems continue to be equivalent to Canadian legislation. The maintenance assessments of the foreign countries' approved systems include:

  1. validation of the approved system following the initial system approval (refer to section 6.1); and,
  2. annual maintenance assessment of the approved system (refer to section 6.2).

5. Initial System Approval Evaluation Procedure

5.1 The competent authority of the exporting country submits a formal request for approval to the CFIA (Director, Meat Programs Division). The request should include the following information:

5.1.1 Type of animal product for which the approval is sought. Details of the request should provide the species of food animal, source of raw materials, details of processing and packaging, etc.

5.1.2 Anticipated volume of trade.

5.1.3 Number and type of establishments implicated in manufacture of the animal origin food products for which approval is sought. This should also include confirmation that in the opinion of the competent authority, all proposed establishments are able to satisfy Canadian requirements, as specified in the Meat Inspection Act and Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990.

5.2 The CFIA acknowledges the request and sends the relevant questionnaires.

5.3 Infrastructure assessment (desk review) - the competent authority of the exporting country submits completed questionnaires, with residue monitoring program and copies of the national legislation applicable to the concerned food of animal origin (English or French translations should be provided). Of particular importance are details of the management structure of the competent authority.

5.4 Technical level, bi-lateral contacts are established between the competent authority of the exporting country and the CFIA, to resolve outstanding issues.

5.5 On-site assessment mission - if the CFIA is satisfied with the information provided and the infrastructure assessment is satisfactory, the CFIA will conduct on-site assessment. The on-site assessment will be conducted at all levels of the competent authority, including official laboratories. Also, a representative sample of registered establishments will be visited to observe application of the required standards, controls and official oversight. At all levels, officials and plant employees will be interviewed, documented control and official oversight procedures will be examined and inspection procedures will be observed.

5.6 Following the on-site assessment mission, the CFIA will prepare a draft system assessment report. The report will contain observations, conclusions and recommendations. At this time, if not before, the CFIA will provide detailed requirements for labelling and certification of products for export to Canada. The report will be sent to the competent authority of the applicant country within 60 days of the closing meeting of the on-site assessment mission with request for comments and resolution of any outstanding issues. Following receipt of the comments, the CFIA will prepare a final report. The report may be posted on the CFIA web site.

5.7 If the outcome of the initial assessment is satisfactory, certification format and the text established and other outstanding issues are resolved, the CFIA will approve the inspection system and notify the applicant country's competent authority accordingly. The approval will also include the initial list of establishments eligible to export products to Canada.

6. Maintenance Assessments of Approved Systems

The approved foreign meat inspection systems as well as the establishments approved for export to Canada are periodically re-assessed to assure that the approval continues to be granted only to the countries that continue to have and to enforce meat inspection systems equivalent to that of Canada.

6.1 Validation of the Approved System

In cases where commercial importations have already started, the first maintenance assessment of the approved system will be conducted within the first 12 months of the system approval. This assessment will validate the system approval, since it will be the first assessment during which the CFIA officials will be able to assess the system with all of the Canada specific control and requirements already in place.

In cases of countries where commercial importations to Canada do not commence within the first 12 months, the validation assessment will be postponed until the time after they do commence but not later than two years after the system approval. The validation assessment will be conducted within 12 months after commercial importations commence.

Where commercial importations do not commence within the first two years after the system approval, the CFIA shall notify the competent authority of the exporting country and an on-site review will have to be conducted within the subsequent 12 months if the system is to maintain CFIA approval.

6.2 Maintenance Assessment of the Approved System

Subsequent to the validation of the approved system, the CFIA will conduct maintenance assessments of the approved systems. The minimum frequency for the assessments will be yearly by senior officials of the CFIA. These assessments will be initiated by the National Specialist, Import Programs, MPD and will consist of review of the country's import performance which will then be assessed by a committee consisting of senior officials of the MPD and/or officials of other interested food inspection program divisions. The assessment will take into account the performance of the exporting country's inspection system as indicated by results of the CFIA's import inspection program, annual review of the exporting country's residue monitoring program, submitted to the CFIA on a regular and timely basis by the competent authority, the volume and food safety risk factors associated with meat products imported from specific countries.

An emergency review may be conducted at any time, should the risk associated with the importation increases unexpectedly.

As a result of these annual reviews, the CFIA may extend the approval, alter the import inspection frequency and depth, require an on-site reassessment within a limited period of time or suspend the system approval. All CFIA costs associated with any visits resulting from these maintenance system reviews will have to be born by the exporting country.

7. Responsibilities of the Involved Competent Authorities

Through the official request for approval and the subsequent approval by the CFIA, the two involved competent authorities enter into an agreement on the conditions for export of specific meat products to Canada.

On the side of the exporting country, its competent authority agrees to assure that meat products for export to Canada will satisfy agreed upon requirements and standards with respect to public and animal health and agrees to provide official certification to that effect.

The CFIA, on the other hand, agrees to assess each imported shipment of imported meat products and, if it is determined that the meat products complies with the agreed upon requirements and standards, will indicate to the importer that from the sanitary and zoo-sanitary aspects, the meat product may enter Canada. The importer is then free to notify the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) accordingly. The CFIA also agrees to provide information on its meat import inspection program, with respect to frequency, type of inspection and the results.

The CFIA will notify the competent authority of the exporting country of the changes in the appropriate meat inspection system brought about within Canada. The competent authority will be given sufficient opportunity to react to the changes to maintain the approval status.

7.1 Responsibility of the Competent Authority of the Exporting Country

7.1.1 Where total equivalency of the systems may not be achieved and the exporting country is required to adopt Canada specific procedures and standards for preparation of meat products for export to Canada, the competent authority shall prepare written instructions detailing the additional conditions. This document shall be effectively distributed within its own jurisdiction to all concerned, including the officials responsible for official oversight of the appropriate establishments and the export certification. This information will be kept up to date and will be available in all establishments eligible to export meat products to Canada. Any changes in Canadian requirements notified by the CFIA (see 7.2.3.) shall be reflected in the document.

7.1.2 The competent authority of the exporting country shall provide the CFIA with results of their residue monitoring program, for appropriate species of animals from the previous year, along with the plan for the forthcoming year automatically, on an annual basis.

7.1.3 The competent authority of the exporting country shall provide the CFIA with details of changes to its meat inspection system, including legislation, standards, procedures and structure, if the changes are likely to have bearing on the conditions under which meat products are being prepared for export to Canada. The CFIA must be given ample opportunity to comment, before the changes are implemented.

7.1.4 The competent authority of the exporting country shall provide the CFIA with details of changes to the list of establishments eligible to export meat products to Canada, with respect to registered name, location address and details of activities carried out in the establishments. The competent authority is also responsible to make proposals of additions of establishments to the list as well as notify deletions. The process of adding establishments to the list will be specified in the system approval. The CFIA may require that all establishments to be added to the official list be visited by Canadian officials prior to listing or it may add establishments upon official request and certification of compliance from the competent authority alone. In the latter case, the added establishments may be visited during the next on-site maintenance assessment of the approved systems.

7.1.5 The competent authority of the exporting country shall issue an Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) for every shipment of meat products exported to Canada. The certification form and the text will be that agreed upon and authenticated by the CFIA, during the system approval assessment process, or agreed upon between the two competent authorities and authenticated by the CFIA at any later date.

7.1.6 The competent authority of the exporting country shall take appropriate actions following every CFIA notification of meat products found in violation of Canadian requirements on import inspection and shall communicate the actions to the CFIA. The CFIA may require additional examination of subsequent shipments to Canada, with additional certification, for a predetermined number of shipments and/or weight of the certified shipments.

7.2 Responsibilities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

7.2.1 The CFIA shall review the OMIC issued by the competent authority of the exporting country and shall not prevent entry into Canada to any duly and correctly certified meat product, which upon the CFIA import inspection is found to satisfy all agreed upon conditions and standards.

7.2.2 The CFIA shall provide the competent authority of the exporting country with an authenticated reference copy of agreed upon certification format and text, every time an agreement on certification is made or changed.

7.2.3 The CFIA shall notify the competent authority of any changes to the Canadian requirements for production of meat products that would call for changes in the established conditions, giving ample opportunity to make comments and to bring about the necessary changes in their Canada specific procedures and requirements. Any changes of this nature shall be included as an amendment to the document identified under 7.1.1.

7.2.4 The CFIA may notify the competent authority of all imported shipments of meat products certified by the authority and found not to comply with the Canadian requirements during the import inspection in Canada.

7.2.5 The CFIA shall publish the agreed upon conditions for importation of meat products from specific countries in its Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures, Chapter 10, Annex A.

7.2.6 The CFIA shall notify the competent authority of the results of its maintenance assessment of the approved system. The notification shall provide the exporting country's competent authority with reasonable time to react to any changes.

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