Thursday, 4 October 2012

B.C. agriculture minister mulls new meat regulations

British Columbia’s new agriculture minister wants to change the province’s meat regulations so more smaller operators can slaughter, process and sell their own products.

“I know there is a burning desire in parts of the province to see closer-to-home meat processing,” Norm Letnick said in an interview Thursday, adding he is leading a review to see what changes can be made.

Letnick said strict rules were introduced in B.C. after the 2004 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) scare, adding those rules restricted the slaughter and processing of meat to larger operations, known as either Class A or Class B facilities.

The rules were relaxed somewhat in 2010, he said, allowing some smaller operators to obtain licenses.

“(Class D was) on-farm slaughter for consumers and the restaurant meat shops, but limited to 25 animal units per year and only in certain areas of B.C.,” he said.

“Class E is limited to 10 animal units per year, and that’s local customers only, so not the retail outlets.”

Now, Letnick said, he wants to see if those rules can be changed once more.

“We have an opportunity here to one more time review our systems and try to achieve three goals,” he said.

Letnick said his highest priority will be to “always protect health and safety of British Columbians.”

“Aim number two,” he continued, “is to see if there’s another opportunity since 2010 to give local consumers choice in their local area, and that of course would be good for agriculture. It would put more meat back onto our farmland.”

Letnick said the third aim is to protect the producers who have invested significant amounts of money to construct large-scale Class A and B facilities, so they could operate under the initial system established in 2004.

Letnick’s review comes as the country grapples with a massive recall after an E. coli outbreak linked to an Alberta slaughterhouse operated by XL Foods.

Letnick stressed that B.C.’s review began long before the recall, though he agreed the nationwide scare “highlights the need for us to continue to protect the health and safety of British Columbians.”

The province has also been reviewing its meat regulations because it will take over inspection services from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency beginning in 2014. This means B.C. will need to operate its own system.

On Thursday, Letnick said he is meeting with industry stakeholders across the province, and that he has asked his staff to provide him with a complete range of options by the end of the fall. He said he hopes to make a decision early next year.

New Democratic Party Agriculture critic Lana Popham said Thursday she believes changes to the province’s meat regulations are long overdue.

“This has been on everybody’s radar for eight years because it was so messed up when [the rules] first came in and it threw the industry into turmoil,” she said.

“My input has always been that we need to look at regional solutions for this problem, and if that means some areas would support smaller scale processing, then that’s what you have to look at,” Popham continued, adding the process will be almost as important as the outcome.

“I’m encouraging the minister to do everything he can to fix this, but it needs to be transparent,” she said. “The process needs to be completely public.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Original Article Here

No comments:

Post a comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...