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New Pilot Program Launched To Fast-Track Canadian Meat Products

The USDA recently launched a new pilot program that allows beef, pork and other meat products to fast-track the inspection process at the border, cutting down on both time and expenses. On paper, this new initiative might seem beneficial to both Canadian and American food manufacturers, but advocates  of the pilot program claim it takes away from a layer of protection that’s helping to reduce food-borne illness in the U.S. Of course the program is still in the early stages of testing, so it’s unclear whether or not the USDA will continue to use it, but it does raise some serious concerns.

Instead of forcing each and every Canadian meat company to stop at the border for inspection, this new pilot program allows them to ship directly to their destination. For instance, if Canadian beef provider is selling crates of ground beef to a burger company, they could ship it directly to them instead of having to go through the border inspection. There are a couple of requirements the meat companies must adhere to if they want to be eligible for this program, one of which is a track record with no previous health violations. If a company has been shut down or found in violation of Canada’s health code, they aren’t eligible to participate in this new fast-track program. In addition, Canadian meat companies must also conduct regular business in the U.S. and have a positive food compliance system.

The main concern with this new fast-track program is that it will allow tainted meat products into the U.S. As you may already know, Canada isn’t known for their over-achieving standards when it comes to food inspections and safety. In fact, approximately 30% of Canadians suffer from some type of food-borne illness each year. These numbers are shocking to say the least, as only 20% of Americans fall victim to food-borne illness.

News of the USDA’s pilot program comes at a time when both US and Canadian companies have issued recalls for ground beef, placing an even greater strain on the integrity of the program. Canadian-based XL Foods recently issued a massive recall for ground beef that’s believed to have been contaminated with E-Coli.

Like most USDA programs, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with their new fast-track pilot program. However, when it comes to the safety of U.S. citizens, we can’t take the easy way out by fast-tracking the importation of meat products. No matter where they come from, there needs to be a clear and decisive inspection to prevent food-borne illness.

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