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Archived - Memorandum - Clarification of the 1 inch (2.5 cm) rule for the removal of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG)

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June 27, 2011

1400 Merivale Rd.

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y9

Veterinarians/Inspectors in-charge of Federally Registered Beef Slaughter/Processing Establishments, Regional Veterinary Officers, and Area Red Meat Program Specialists

By way of this memorandum, veterinarians/inspectors in-charge of registered establishments are asked to share the information contained herein with the operators and/or managers of the establishments for which they are responsible.

According to Health Canada recommendations, the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) (excluding the vertebral column) are identified as specified risk materials (SRM) in over thirty month (OTM) cattle. However, the guidelines state that it may be necessary to remove the vertebral column to ensure the adequate removal of the spinal cord and DRG.

The Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MOP), chapter 17, Annex D; The Ante and Post-mortem Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls - Red Meat Species, Ostriches, Rheas and Emus, section 3.9 states:

Removal of the dorsal root ganglia

It is the operator's responsibility to ensure SRM is not incorporated into any edible meat products. The dorsal root ganglia (DRG) from OTM carcasses must be removed and disposed of as SRM. The vertebral column removal will most likely be done in the cutting and boning room after carcass chilling. In order to ensure complete removal of DRG, the vertebral column of OTM cattle (excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the dorsal and transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and the wings of the sacrum) must be removed and disposed of as SRM. Cutting and boning procedures used to remove the OTM vertebral column shall not cause the removal of DRG with the edible muscle tissue. As a best practice, the cut separating the edible muscle from the vertebral column should be made approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the vertebral arch to ensure no DRG is inadvertently included with the edible meat.

The policy on the removal of the SRM from the human food chain has been in effect since 2003. However, since the implementation of this policy, concerns have been raised regarding the interpretation of the requirement for the removal of the DRG (i.e. the1 inch margin for the position of the cut) by both CFIA inspection staff and operators.

Inconsistency in the application of this policy across the country has made it necessary to further clarify the expectations regarding this requirement. Based on previous research conducted on OTM cattle by CFIA program specialists involved in the development of this policy and industry's best practices currently ongoing in some areas, it has been agreed that this measurement shall be taken from the inner surface of the vertebral arch. Previous findings show that measuring 1 inch from the lateral (inner) surface of the vertebral canal towards the external surface of the individual vertebrae ensures that all the DRG remain with the spinal column without compromising the wholesomeness of the recovered edible meat product, regardless of where the measurement was taken along the spinal column.

Finally, the MOP will be reviewed accordingly during the next update.

Should you have any questions pertaining to this memorandum, please contact your Area Red Meat Program Specialist or the National Red Meat Specialist - Ruminant.

Thank you for your consideration of this memorandum,

Original signed by:

Dr. Rajiv Arora
Acting National Red Meat Programs Specialist
Meat Programs Division

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