Specified Risk Material - Requirements for Slaughtering Cattle and Processing Beef

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On July 12, 2007, enhanced animal health safeguards came into effect to help eliminate bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, from Canada. Certain cattle tissues capable of transmitting BSE, known specified risk material (SRM), are banned from all animal feeds, pet foods and fertilizers. There are also requirements for anyone slaughtering cattle and processing beef.

What are SRM?

SRM are defined as:

  • the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia (nerves attached to the brain), eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (nerves attached to the spinal cord) of cattle aged 30 months or older; and
  • the distal ileum (portion of the small intestine) of cattle of all ages.

Note: Permit Requirements

Carcasses of condemned cattle and cattle deadstock, of any age, containing SRM must be treated as SRM. Any inedible material that is mixed with SRM, such as floor waste or recovered solids from waste water, must also be treated as SRM.

Requirements for Federally Registered Abattoirs and Red Meat Processors

Removing SRM

Under existing legislation, SRM removal from all cattle slaughtered for human consumption has been required since 2003. This requirement is not changing.

Collecting, Identifying and Containing SRM

All SRM must be collected in a designated section of the inedible products area.

All SRM must be stained as follows:

  • inedible SRM be stained with a meat marking dye approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA);
  • edible whole or partial carcasses of cattle aged 30 months or older that contain the dorsal root ganglia must be marked with a meat marking dye along the entire vertebral column; and
  • condemned cattle and cattle deadstock must be conspicuously marked along their spine.

Stained SRM must be placed in a dedicated container that is clearly marked as "SRM".

Transportation of SRM

SRM, including carcasses containing SRM, may only be transported from an abattoir or processing establishment by a person or company possessing a CFIA permit. All recipients of SRM, for any purpose, must also possess a CFIA permit.

Recording SRM

Abattoirs and processing establishments must keep daily records that include:

  • the name and address of the abattoir or processing establishment;
  • the date of SRM removal and staining;
  • the combined weight of SRM and carcasses considered SRM, as well as the number of carcasses;
  • the name of the dye used;
  • Canadian Cattle Identification Agency or Agri-Traçabilité Québec tag numbers;
  • the date of SRM transportation from the establishment; and
  • the name and address of the person or company transporting SRM, and the destination.

These records must be retained for 10 years.

Requirements for Non-federally Registered Abattoirs and Red Meat Processors

Removing SRM

Under existing legislation, SRM must be removed from all cattle slaughtered for human consumption.

The remaining requirements vary depending on whether or not SRM is being moved from the premises for destruction or containment purposes.

Offsite SRM destruction or containment

The following requirements apply if SRM or carcasses considered SRM are being moved from an abattoir to any offsite location, including rendering plants, land fills or  incinerators.  

Collecting, Identifying and Containing SRM

All SRM must be stained as follows:

  • inedible SRM must be stained with a substance approved as either a denaturing agent (e.g., Birkolene B or charcoal) or a meat marking dye;
  • edible whole or partial carcasses of cattle aged 30 months or older that contain the dorsal root ganglia must be marked with a meat marking dye along the entire vertebral column; and
  • condemned cattle and cattle deadstock must be conspicuously marked along their spine.

Stained SRM must be placed in a dedicated container that is clearly marked as "specified risk material."

If SRM is not segregated from other inedible materials, all inedible materials mixed with SRM, must be dyed and collected in a dedicated container that is clearly marked as "specified risk material."

Recording SRM

Establishments must keep daily records that include:

  • the name and address of the abattoir or processing establishment;
  • the date of SRM removal and staining;
  • the combined weight of SRM and carcasses considered SRM;
  • the name of the dye used;
  • the numbers of Canadian Cattle Identification Agency tags from carcases considered SRM (or other details in the case of carcasses not possessing tags);
  • the date of SRM transportation from the establishment; and
  • the name and address of the person or company transporting SRM, and the final destination.

These records must be retained for 10 years.

Movement of SRM

SRM, including carcasses containing SRM, being moved from an abattoir or processing establishment may only be transported by a person or company possessing the required CFIA permit.

Destruction or Permanent Containment of SRM

SRM  being moved offsite for any reason may only be sent to a person or company possessing the required CFIA permit.

Onsite SRM destruction or containment

The following requirements only apply if SRM or carcasses considered SRM and all inedible material from all animal species are being disposed of on the premises.

Collecting, Identifying and Containing SRM

No requirement

Recording SRM

Establishments must keep daily records that include:

  • the name and address of the abattoir or processing establishment;
  • the combined weight of SRM; and
  • the date and method of SRM destruction/containment. 

These records must be retained for 10 years.

Movement of SRM

All inedible materials from all species-including SRM, carcasses considered SRM and composted SRM-must permanently remain on the establishment's premises.

Destruction or Permanent Containment of SRM

All inedible material from all species, including SRM and carcasses considered SRM, must be permanently contained on the premises of the establishment.

Containment options, such as burial, must comply with provincial and municipal standards and requirements.

Where allowed by provincial and municipal requirements, inedible materials may be composted to reduce waste volume. However, no composted material may leave the premises without a CFIA permit to transport SRM.

Requirements for Moving Edible Carcasses for Further Processing

In certain circumstances, a partial or whole cattle carcass may be moved to a separate location for further processing. During this process, some SRM may remain in the carcass until processing is completed. The following requirements address this specific situation.

Collecting, Identifying, Containing and Recording Removed SRM from Edible Carcasses

The requirements for SRM removed from edible carcasses are the same as those for non-federally registered abattoirs and processors.

Identifying SRM contained in edible carcasses

Animals younger than 30 months of age

If the distal ileum or entire intestinal tract has been removed, the carcass or partial carcass no longer contains SRM and can move without staining or a permit.

Animals older than 30 months of age

The vertebral column of carcass sides and quarters must be stained with edible ink. For whole carcasses, a stripe of ink must be placed down the spine, from neck to tail.

Movement of Edible Carcasses Containing SRM

Anyone moving an edible carcass or partial carcass containing SRM must first obtain a CFIA permit. The CFIA will review permits on a case-by-case basis to ensure that adequate steps are taken to contain SRM during transportation. The processing location receiving the carcasses or partial carcasses containing SRM must have a CFIA permit.

Destruction or Permanent Containment of SRM

The requirements for SRM removed from edible carcasses at the processing location are the same as those listed for non-federally registered abattoirs and processors.

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