After decades of consultation, Health Canada to propose allowing irradiated ground beef to be sold

CTV News reports Health Canada will propose regulatory changes to Food and Drug Regulations next month that would allow the sale of irradiated ground beef in Canada. consult_3A webpage on the department’s website states the proposed amendments would add fresh and frozen raw ground beef to a list of foods that are already permitted to undergo radiation treatment. It says the purpose would be to would allow, but not require, the beef industry to use irradiation to “improve the safety of their products.” Health Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette says the proposed regulations for ground beef will be announced in June in the Canada Gazette and that a public consultation period will follow. Industry groups in Canada have sought irradiation for over a decade as a way to prevent the spread of E. coli and other dangerous bacteria, but negative public reaction to it has slowed progress. Health Canada earlier proposed to permit the sale of irradiated ground beef in 2002, but according to the web page it was never finalized “due to mostly negative stakeholder reaction.” “I think public perception has changed,” says Mark Klassen, director of technical services with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, based in Alberta. The cattlemen’s association first launched an application to use irradiation for ground beef in 1998. Its updated application in 2013 to irradiate all kinds of beef followed a tainted beef recall at what was then the XL Foods plant in southern Alberta. Bruce Cran of the Consumers Association of Canada, which has been lobbying for irradiation, is pleased with Health Canada’s decision to move forward on ground beef. But he says chicken and salad vegetables should be irradiated, too. “The science has been in on this one for decades that it does no harm,” says Cran, who adds the risk of foodborne illnesses is high without it. “They’re going to have a catastrophe if they don’t do something, in my opinion.”