Operational procedure: Visual inspection of imported meat products

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff on how to perform a visual inspection of imported meat products to assess the shipping containers, outer labels and to verify the correlation between the shipment and the Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) issued by the foreign authorities of the exporting country (SFCR 11(1) and SFCR 167(d)).

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in Section 3.0

The guidance outlined below should be used when meat shipments are identified for either a full inspection or a visual inspection.

2.0 Authorities

3.0 Reference documents

4.0 Definitions

Unless specified below, definitions are located in either the:

Lot
For the purposes of this operational procedure, a collection of readily identifiable units of meat product that are processed and/or handled under uniform conditions. A lot is identified as an individual product line on an Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC).
Shipment
For the purposes of this operational procedure, a specific quantity of meat products imported by one importer on a single OMIC at the time of import.
Organoleptic inspection
Is a physical examination of a representative number of sample units (for example, cartons, carcasses, combo bins), drawn at the end of visual inspection, using the senses of touch, smell, sight to determine the wholesomeness and cleanliness of a meat product.
Visual inspection
A visual inspection of the entire lot to assess the shipping containers for evidence of damaged or stained cartons, detect objectionable odours, verify labels of shipping containers, and a document review to establish a correlation between the shipment and the Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) issued by the competent authority of the exporting country.

5.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in this document and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6.0 Operational procedure

Data on all imported meat product shipments can be found in the Import Control Tracking System (ICTS Citrix). The ICTS Citrix allows the agency to capture data on all imported meat product shipments, verify the validity of the certificate number and the shipping marks, and verify the eligibility of the exporting country, slaughter, processing and exporting establishments.

The ICTS Citrix generates an Import Inspection Report (IIR) for each shipment. The report is the record of the import transaction for tracking purposes and provides the importer with the type of inspection assigned to each lot in the shipment. Based on the data entered into the ICTS Citrix, the system identifies the imported lots as either a:

  • skip lotFootnote 1 (not subject to import inspection before release)
  • full inspection (subject to visual and organoleptic inspection)
  • visual inspection

The importer must immediately deliver all meat products designated for a full or visual inspection to an establishment where they must be stored and handled in their imported condition by a licence holder until the inspection is completed (SFCR 14(1)(a)(i)).

6.1 Prepare for the inspection

Before conducting a visual inspection, have the following available:

  • the OMICFootnote 2
  • the IIR
  • a copy of an Animal Health import permit or other official documents, if required
  • any seal change documents, if applicable

Before the inspection, ensure that the equipment necessary to perform the inspection tasks is available in the establishment.

In establishments where inspectors are not continuously present, CFIA may delegate certain activities to the licence holder to avoid delays in the inspection process. Examples of such activities include removing seals, receiving imported shipments, selecting sample units, sorting non-compliant shipments, stamping non-compliant shipping containers, etc. These activities can be delegated when appropriate documented controls are in place and have been accepted by the inspector.

To demonstrate control, the licence holder should include the following in their procedures:

  • detailed description of all steps of the activity;
  • list of responsible employees; and
  • records to be kept
When the visual inspection is complete, continue to section 6.3 Communicate the results of this document if no lots in the shipment are identified for full inspection. If one or more lots are identified for full inspection, continue to section 6.2.8 Selection of sample units for organoleptic inspection when required of this document once the visual inspection is complete.

6.2 Conduct the inspection

6.2.1 Documentation review

Before proceeding with the inspection of the shipping containers, review the import documents to ensure they are acceptable. The OMIC must be complete, legible and accurately capture the product information. Refer to the Procedures for the use of Official Meat Inspection Certificates (OMIC) as well as the US PHIS Meat and Poultry Certificate for Wholesomeness or the Official Meat Inspection Certificate Form (for all countries other than the United States) page to determine the acceptability of the OMIC.

Refer to the Countries from which commercial importation of meat products is permitted and the Eligible countries and meat products for importation into Canada to identify the type of products accepted for import, documentation requirements, certification statements and attestations required on the OMIC. Additionally, refer to the List of foreign establishments approved to export meat to Canada to verify that the establishments are eligible for export to Canada and confirm they are approved to conduct the slaughter and processing activities they are performing by verifying their functional activity codes.

If, at any point during the inspection, the information on the OMIC does not correlate to the actual shipment (except for the number of shipping containers being less than what is stated on the OMIC), reject the shipment in ICTS and cease the inspection. The importer can request and receive a replacement OMIC depending on the situation. The inspection can proceed after a replacement OMIC is submitted to the National Import Service Centre (NISC). If there is a discrepancy between the OMIC and the IIR, contact the NISC or your Area Operations Specialist, depending on the established communication protocol, to request that the information on the IIR be corrected.

If there are any concerns regarding the authenticity of a Public Health Information System (PHIS) generated OMIC from the United States (US), designated CFIA staff can validate the export certificate's details and digital signature using the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) PHIS Certificate Signature Viewer (CSV).

To have a US OMIC validated:

If NISC staff determine that a US OMIC is not valid (for example, the certificate cannot be found in the system or does not match what is in the CSV), cease the inspection and contact your Area Operations Specialist during regular working hours for further guidance.

If there are any concerns regarding the authenticity of an OMIC from any country other than the US, contact your Area Operations Specialist for further guidance.

6.2.2 Seal verification

Confirm that the conveyance is secured by an official seal as per the use of official seals and:

  • the seal number on the conveyance is the same as the seal number on the OMIC, if required
  • if a tamper-resistant seal is used (bearing the official inspection mark of the foreign state of origin), shipping containers are sealed in such a manner that they cannot be opened without breaking the strap or destroying the tape or sticker [SFCR 287 (3)]

If the seal number on the shipment does not match the OMIC, follow the Operational procedure: verification of seal numbers when foreign seal on shipment is broken while in transit.

6.2.3 Assessment of staging

All imported lots to be inspected must be staged inside the establishment by the operator. This allows the inspector to carry out a cursory, overall inspection of the lot(s). Ensure that the product is staged so that:

  • the lots to be inspected are unloaded in their entirety
  • the lots are separated to verify the size of each lot easily
  • the lots are displayed in such a manner that the inspector:
    • can safely view each lot as a whole and verify the count
    • can examine for transportation damage; and
    • can easily see the main panel of all shipping containers to facilitate the reading of the label's mandatory information and other mandatory markings (for example, shipping marks)
    • has adequate space for sample selection so that each unit has an equal chance of being selected as a sample

No shipping containers are opened at this time.

If the inspector feels they don't have access to the lot due to other shipping containers, lift truck traffic, or the way the lot is presented, the lot must be re-staged to allow the inspector to move between the pallets of meat product safely.

6.2.4 Assessment of general conditions of the shipment

Observe the general condition of the entire shipment for possible signs of transport damage, defrosting, temperature abuse or stained shipping containers. Shipping containers affected by transport damage or with evidence of temperature abuse to the extent that the safety of the meat product may be compromised should be considered non-compliant.

In cases where only some of the shipping containers show transport damage or signs of temperature abuse, sorting and removal of the affected part of the lot may be considered if requested by the importer. Sorting a lot may be considered only in cases where the defect is clearly visible and identifiable, and the removal of affected containers from the lot can be conducted without damaging or staining other shipping containers.

Rework and handling of exposed meat products during the sorting process are not permitted. Sorting must be carried out in the establishment where the imported meat product is being presented for import inspection. Follow the procedures in the Operational procedure: ordering removal or destruction of unlawful food imports to determine if an order to remove or destroy from Canada is appropriate for the non-compliant part of the lot. After sorting out the non-compliant units, the remainder of the lot may be accepted following a secondary inspection by a CFIA inspector.

Depending on the general condition of the product in the conveyance, the inspector may determine that a full inspection is required to verify compliance. Consider consulting with your Area Operations Specialist before expanding the inspection scope to ensure a full inspection is warranted.

6.2.5 Correlation of shipping marks with OMIC

Shipping marks are unique numbers, or combinations of letters and numbers, that positively identify each and every shipping container within the shipment with the corresponding OMIC.

Each shipping container in each imported lot must be clearly marked with an appropriate shipping mark. Verify that the shipping marks on the OMIC correspond to the shipping marks on every shipping container and meet the requirements outlined in the use of shipping marks.

Shipping containers with shipping marks that are missing, illegible or do not correlate to the OMIC are considered non-compliant. Shipping containers with missing, incorrect, or illegible shipping marks may be brought into compliance provided an official of the exporting country's government inspection and certification agency oversees the correction of the shipping marks to these containers. The government official can supervise the correction in person or virtually. The inspector should verify the government official's credentials by having them present an official identification card.

The importer is responsible for arranging for a government official of the exporting country to oversee the correction of shipping marks.

Table 1 – Determining options for handling shipping containers with non-compliant shipping marks
If Then

shipping containers are found with shipping marks that are missing, illegible or that do not correlate with the OMIC

and

no replacement OMIC is required

notify the importer

consider allowing the importer the option to sort the implicated lot by removing all non-complying shipping containers

detain non-compliant shipping containers (if required)

release the complying part of the lot and all other compliant lots on OMIC

have the importer arrange for the non-compliant shipping marks to be corrected under the supervision (in person or virtual) of a government official of the exporting country

re-inspect and release the shipping containers once the shipping marks have been corrected

shipping containers are found with shipping marks that are missing, illegible or that do not correlate with the OMIC

and

a replacement OMIC is required

notify the importer

stamp the original OMIC in red ink "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé"

detain the shipment (if required)

have the importer arrange for the non-compliant shipping marks to be corrected under the supervision (in person or virtual) of a government official of the exporting country once a replacement OMIC has been issued

re-inspect the non-compliant shipping containers and release the shipment once the shipping marks have been corrected

Note: The visual or full inspection must be complete, and the shipping containers deemed compliant before they can be released to the importer.

6.2.6 Count verification

Compare the number of shipping containers present in each lot, identified for full or visual inspection, with the number of cartons on the OMIC. When more cartons are presented than those certified, the extra cartons should be considered as not having been certified.

6.2.6.1 Overage

When the number of shipping units is more than the amount stated on the OMIC, use the table "allowable overage of shipping units in lot size" in Appendix 1 to accept or reject the lot.

Proceed with the visual inspection if the overage is within the limit stated in the table for the applicable lot size. If the overage is not within the allowable limit in Appendix 1, reject the lot in ICTS Citrix, and the importer can request a replacement certificate.

6.2.6.2 Underage

When the number of shipping units is less than the amount stated on the certificate, perform the following procedures:

  • correct the copy of the IIR by crossing out the incorrect count and net weight and entering the correct figures
  • determine if the number of sample units for organoleptic inspection needs to be manually adjusted if a full inspection is required
  • record the accurate count in the remarks section of the ICTS Citrix when reporting inspection results

Replacement OMICs are not needed for underage.

6.2.7 Label verification

Use the Food labelling for industry: requirements for labelling of meat and poultry products and the Labelling requirements for meat and poultry products: packaging type to verify that all shipping containers:

  • have all mandatory labelling information (SFCR 286-292)
  • bear evidence of inspection, such as the inspection legend or the official inspection mark of the foreign state of origin (SFCR 287(1))

6.2.8 Selection of sample units for organoleptic inspection when required

For imported lots assigned a full inspection by the ICTS, refer to the Operational procedure: organoleptic inspection of imported meat products to select sample units and conduct the organoleptic inspection.

6.3 Communicate the results

A. Shipments found in compliance

For shipments found in compliance:

  • complete the "Inspected and released" box on the IIR
  • enter the inspection results in the ICTS Citrix
  • provide a signed copy of the IIR to the importer, and
  • release the shipment to the importer

B. Non-compliant shipments

Follow the procedures in the Operational procedure: ordering removal or destruction of unlawful food imports to determine if an order to remove or destroy from Canada is appropriate.

B.1 For complete shipments ordered removed or destroyed

All original OMICs covering shipments ordered removed or destroyed must be stamped in red ink "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé." The inspector must record the date and their initials adjacent to the stamped impression.

The shipment's IIR must also be stamped in red ink "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé." The inspector must record the date and their initials adjacent to the stamped impression and will not complete the "Inspected and released" box on the IIR.

B.2 For partial lots ordered removed or destroyed

This refers to situations where only part of a lot is ordered removed or destroyed. If the import failure is limited to a clearly identifiable part of a lot covered by one certificate, the inspector may order only that part removed or destroyed. For example, in cases where only some of the shipping containers show transport damage or signs of temperature abuse, sorting and removal of the affected part of the lot may be considered. The importer must request permission to sort the non-compliant lot and organize the removal of the non-compliant shipping containers from the lot. The importer must re-present the sorted, acceptable part of the lot for secondary inspection.

Indicate the number of cartons accepted and their net weight on the shipment's IIR. Similarly, the amounts ordered removed or destroyed must also be indicated on the IIR. When entering inspection results in ICTS, enter the number of non-compliant cartons and why they are being ordered removed or destroyed in the remarks section of the ICTS program only.

Complete the "Inspected and released" box on the IIR once the rest of the shipment has passed inspection.

B.3 For partial shipment ordered removed or destroyed

This refers to situations where one or more lots (product lines) identified on an OMIC are ordered removed or destroyed from among multiple other lots, which are accepted.

Circle the entire product line(s) being ordered removed or destroyed on the OMIC in red ink. The text "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé" must be handwritten within the circle along with the date and the inspector's initials. Follow the same procedure for the corresponding Import Inspection Report (IIR). Complete the "Inspected and released" box on the IIR once the rest of the shipment has passed inspection.

B.4 Stamping of shipping containers ordered removed or destroyed

a) When a lot or shipment of meat product from the US has been ordered removed or destroyed for issues not related to food safety, the inspector may decide not to stamp the shipping containers upon request from the importer

b) When a shipment of meat products from any country is refused at the port of landing in Canada, and the shipment has not been unloaded, the stamping of the export certificate with the "refused" stamp will be sufficient, provided the original certificate is under CFIA control.

c) When a lot or shipment of meat products from countries other than the US has been unloaded and ordered removed or destroyed for any reason, each non-compliant shipping container MUST be stamped "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé."

  • The "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé" stamp must be applied on the main panel of the container without obliterating any information. If this is not feasible, the "Refused CFIA/ACIA Refusé" stamp should be applied on an adjacent panel.
  • CFIA may delegate the stamping of boxes to the licence holder when appropriate documented control is in place and has been accepted by the inspector
  • The non-compliant meat products must be stored separately from any other product until proper disposition [SFCR 61(b)]

For general inquiries related to this OG, follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF) – (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

7.0 Appendices

Appendix 1: Allowable overage of shipping containers per lot size

Lot size
(Shipping containers)
Overages allowed
(Shipping containers)
50 – under 0
51 – 100 1
101 – 200 2
201 – 400 4
401 – 600 6
601 – 1,200 12
1,201 – 2,000 20
2,001 – 5,000 50
5,001 – 10,000 100
10,001 – over 150