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Exemption to the application of the inspection legend before refrigeration

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1.0 Introduction

Meat products must meet many criteria before they can be identified as edible. Amongst these criteria is the key component of passing a post-mortem inspection or examination. Marking carcasses, other than poultry and rabbits, with the federal inspection legend when this step has been completed is an important way to validate that only federally approved carcasses are used in federally classified edible meat products and to demonstrate the edibility of the final product.

The regulatory requirements for application of the inspection legend on carcasses are outlined under Application of the inspection legend on food animal carcasses before refrigeration along with the requirements pertaining to getting an exemption from this requirement under certain conditions.

A licence holder who not only conducts the activity of slaughtering of food animals but also the activity of further processing the carcasses into edible meat products (such as various primal and subprimal parts, as well as other meat products) in the same establishment may consider requesting an exemption to applying the federal inspection legend before refrigeration. After a carcass has passed federal inspection, the licence holder typically moves it, under control, to another area in the same establishment for further processing. The licence holder then ships the resulting meat products in fully labeled containers either for further processing at other establishments or into commerce. With this exemption, licence holders will not be required to mark carcasses or sides with the inspection legend when they leave the slaughter floor to be further processed within the same establishment. However, all derived meat products will have to be properly labeled and bear the mark of inspection before leaving the establishment.

The intent of the legislation is to allow the exemption when the majority of the production is processed in the same establishment. The CFIA recognizes that an operator may sell certain carcasses or sides to meet clients' requirements. In these cases, the carcasses or sides may be stamped before leaving the establishment in accordance with subsection 282 (1). This is an exception and not a rule, so an operator who only slaughters carcasses to ship them as is to another cutting plant would not normally be eligible for this exemption.

This document provides guidance on how a licence holder can prepare for this exemption, submit an application and what controls are expected.

2.0 Application for Ministerial exemption

To be authorized for such an exemption, the licence holder must process the edible meat product from the unmarked carcasses or carcass sides within the same establishment where the food animal is slaughtered. Note that CFIA will be flexible in the definition of "processing" to accommodate most industry players. Normally, there is an expectation that the "process" would change the original format that the "carcass" or the "side" had when it entered the cooler. Examples include:

Industry will need to ensure that their licence includes both the slaughter activity and processing activity to be eligible to this exemption. Interested licence holders must submit an application in a letter format, along with their control program for this exemption to the veterinarian with supervisory authority.

The licence holder must ensure that the information submitted in the application is complete, truthful and not misleading. The licence holder must be able to demonstrate that all risks of fraud are properly mitigated and considered. Accordingly, in the letter, the licence holder must attest to developing, implementing and maintaining a control program within their Preventive control plan (PCP) that effectively demonstrates:

The implementation of the control program should not be initiated until an exemption is received from the CFIA veterinarian with supervisory authority.


Please note that certain importing countries may not allow such exemption to be implemented in their eligible exporting establishments. Accordingly, loss of export eligibility to these markets is a business decision that is the sole responsibility of the licence holder.

3.0 Granting of CFIA exemption

The veterinarian with supervisory authority will review the application, including the control program and may grant the exemption if:

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, licence holders are not prohibited from allowing the entry of non-federally inspected meat products into the establishment (e.g. hunted carcasses from hunters for private use, provincially approved meat products, etc.), as long as there is appropriate segregation of activities/products. CFIA strongly opposes this practice in the context of the exemption described within, as this can have a serious impact on the overall Canadian trade. Accordingly, CFIA has made the administrative decision to not grant such an exemption for licence holders performing such practices.

Note that the veterinarian with supervisory authority may stipulate additional conditions for this exemption at any time. This is supported by the section 176 of the SFCR. The administrative decision mentioned above would be an example of such additional condition. Furthermore, the implementation of additional controls on non-edible meat products would also be necessary for CFIA to have confidence in the system. This means that the licence holder will implement measures to properly identify/control non-edible meat products, which may include for example:

CFIA would normally inform industry of the addition of any other condition to ensure consistent application.

The veterinarian with supervisory authority will grant the exemption in writing. He will keep a copy of both the application (and its supporting documentation) and the written exemption. The veterinarian with supervisory authority may examine any document to verify compliance with the control program.

4.0 Period of validity

This exemption will be valid until the expiry date that is specified in the exemption, or if no date is specified, until the end of the period that is two years after the day on which the exemption is granted. It will be the responsibility of industry to re-apply for a further continuation of the exemption at that time. As a best practice, timing for application should align with the renewal process for the licence.

5.0 CFIA verification

CFIA inspection personnel will conduct on-going verification of the control program. CFIA will verify that the licence holder has in place, in its Preventive control plan (PCP), controls to ensure that unmarked carcasses are further processed in the establishment and that carcasses (or sides/quarters) that are not further processed in the establishment do not leave the establishment unmarked. The licence holders must adhere to the processes and procedures outlined in their control program.

CFIA may verify through records review or direct observation that the licence holder's procedures ensure that:

  1. the licence holder  properly identifies and handles carcasses or parts, so that only edible, federally inspected and passed product proceeds to further processing;
  2. the licence holder can account for the number of carcasses it slaughters and moves through its establishment;
  3. retained carcasses or parts remain under CFIA's control until released by the CFIA;
  4. condemned (or rejected) animals and carcasses are properly handled and removed from the edible stream;
  5. whole carcasses, carcass sides and quarters transported to another establishment bear the federal inspection legend; and
  6. the labeling requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations are complied with.

6.0 Grounds for cancellation

CFIA can cancel the exemption at any time.

The veterinarian with supervisory authority may cancel the exemption in case where:

Proof of fraud or repetitive non-compliances of elements supporting this exemption will lead to revocation of the exemption.

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