Industry Information Session: Implementation of the 2011 Health Canada "Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods"
Topic 1: Purpose of the Listeria Policy Revision

Revised Listeria Policy

Effective Date: April 1, 2011

The Listeria Policy was developed and revised by Health Canada (HC), in consultation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Purpose and Scope of the Listeria Policy

(Section 2 of the Listeria Policy)

  • Protect the health of Canadians
  • Serve as a tool to assist industry to comply with food safety regulatory requirements
  • Provide recommendations to industry on the verification, monitoring and control of Listeria in the production of ready-to-eat (RTE) food
  • Provide guidance to regulatory authorities on oversight of RTE food production and compliance activities if the food is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (Lm)

Events Leading Up to the Policy Revision

  • The Listeria Policy was last revised in July of 2004.
  • The Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted the Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods (CAC/GL 61 – 2007).
  • Two large multi-provincial listeriosis outbreaks: deli meat produced in Ontario resulting in 23 deaths, cheese produced in Quebec resulting in 2 deaths.
  • The Prime Minister appoints Ms. Weatherill to conduct an independent investigation. The Weatherill report recommendation #11: "Health Canada should complete the revision of its 2004 Listeria Policy, by no later than March 2010."

Goals of the Revised Listeria Policy

(Section 1 of the Listeria Policy

  • Enhance the verification and control of Listeria spp. in the food processing environment.
  • Permit early identification of any potential contamination in the plant environment.
  • Increase the ability to identify and mitigate the risk of Lm contamination in the finished product.

These actions will provide early warning and permit the appropriate interventions to protect consumers.

Key Policy Revisions

(Section 1 of the Listeria Policy)

End-product compliance criteria: Similar to International Codex Alimentarius Commission standards, the revised Listeria Policy contains new compliance criteria for end-products tested for the presence of Lm.

RTE food categories: Definitions of RTE foods in which growth of Lmcan or cannot occur have been modified and/or developed (i.e. new definition of Categories 1, 2A and 2B).

Compliance action decision tree: Decision tree related to compliance action, including environmental testing for Listeria spp. and end-product testing for Lm, has been modified to include more details on sampling.

Environmental monitoring program: Environmental monitoring program should be included in all plants producing RTE foods, as defined by the Listeria Policy.

Post-lethality treatments/growth inhibitors: The use of post-lethality treatments and/or Lm growth inhibitors is encouraged.

Outreach: Outreach with federal/provincial/territorial community to increase awareness of the risks of listeriosis and to provide guidance on how to reduce the risks.

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