Government of Canada announces changes to the Food and Drug Regulations to permit the irradiation of ground beef

News Release

New Regulations will give industry another tool to enhance food safety

February 22, 2017 – Ottawa – Health Canada

The Government of Canada recognizes that a safe food supply is a major contributing factor to the health of Canadians. As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to promoting healthy and safe food for Canadians, Health Canada published final regulations today in the Canada Gazette, Part II, which permit the sale of fresh and frozen raw ground beef treated with irradiation.

Health Canada developed the new regulations after conducting a thorough assessment, and concluded that irradiation is a safe and effective treatment to reduce harmful bacteria in ground beef.

Irradiation is an optional tool that the food industry can use to treat certain foods to maintain quality or enhance safety. The United States has permitted the irradiation of fresh and frozen ground beef since 1999, and more than 60 countries worldwide permit irradiation of various foods. It is already approved in Canada to treat potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, spices and seasoning preparations. Irradiation is intended to complement rather than replace existing food safety practices, such as appropriate handling, storage and sanitation.

During irradiation, food is exposed to low levels of a type of energy called ionizing radiation. Benefits of this kind of food processing may include a reduction in levels of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter; prevention of premature spoilage; and a longer shelf life.

Ground beef that is irradiated retains its nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance. All irradiated foods must be labelled. Both a written description that the food has been irradiated and a distinctive symbol, the Radura, must appear on food packages. If the food is not packaged, a sign containing this information must be displayed at the point of sale.

Permitting this technology will give the beef industry another tool to enhance food safety.

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