Chapter 17 - Ante and Post-mortem Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls - Meat Species, Ostriches, Rheas and Emus
17.11 Refrigeration of Carcasses and Carcass Parts

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Refrigeration, which includes both chilling and freezing, plays an integral role in the production and storage of meat products and its importance cannot be over-stressed. Because refrigeration is involved so extensively in many operations, many references will be found in other chapters and sections of this manual, and these will be indicated as cross-references in the text of this section. There are, however, several aspects of refrigeration which will only be dealt with here.

The primary purpose of refrigeration is to preserve meat products by slowing down the chemical and enzymatic changes which occur in tissues after slaughter, and by slowing down or stopping the multiplication of microorganisms which might give rise to spoilage or food poisoning.

Carcasses and parts shall be chilled according to a cooling process which achieves the performance requirements described respectively under section 17.11.4 and 17.11.7. Cooling performance requirements are designed to prevent the outgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and spoilage organisms that can be caused by inadequate cooling practices. Refrigeration of the environment in which meat products are handled is important to achieve the performance requirement. Chilling operations shall be performed according to the applicable HACCP system, and the corresponding written and validated program to control retained water.

17.11.1 Condensation

A major problem experienced with refrigeration is condensation, which occurs when relatively warm, humid air strikes a cold surface or mixes with cold air (e.g. on the kill floor, at the entry of the cooler). Condensation can be reduced by insulating cold surfaces, increasing air circulation within a room, and by reducing the flow of warm air into refrigerated areas. In rooms where condensation occurs, measures must be taken to protect meat products. This latter type of control may consist of the use of drip pans and ducts, the wiping or sponging of surfaces and the placement of exposed product in areas where the dripping of condensation does not occur.

17.11.2 Performance of Cooling Installations

By the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990, refrigerate means to lower the temperature of a meat product to, and to maintain the temperature at, 4°C or lower. Finished products must be kept refrigerated.

17.11.3 Product Temperature Requirements at the Time of Shipping

Red meat products (including carcasses, primal cuts, sub-primal cuts, trim cuts and edible offal) shipped from a federally registered establishment must be fully chilled (to 4°C or less) or frozen (to 0°C or less) prior to shipping; unless alternative cooling processes or a specific shipping agreement exists.

17.11.4 Cooling Performance Standards for the Chilling of Carcasses and Cuts

As a general rule, refrigeration of carcasses must begin promptly after the end of carcass dressing and product must be cooled as quickly as possible.

For carcasses and cuts (primary cuts, sub-primary cuts, cuts and trims), the operator shall ensure and demonstrate in an ongoing manner that they are achieving compliance with the following cooling performance standards:

  • The cooling of carcasses and products is continuous, that is, the temperature of the carcass must be continually lowered until it reaches the standard.
  • The surface temperature of carcasses is 7°C or less within 24 hours of the end of carcass dressing.
  • After reaching a surface temperature of 7°C, the product's internal temperature must continue to go down in a continuous manner to 4°C or less. This should take place as quickly as possible and the cooling media shall be maintained at a maximum temperature of 4°C.
  • Before the product is cut, the internal temperature (warmest part) of the carcass is 7°C or less. The carcass must be chilled in such a way to make this possible.
  • Product temperature requirements are met at the time of shipping.

17.11.5 Alternative Cooling Processes for Carcasses and Cuts

Alternative cooling processes are defined as cooling processes which do not meet the cooling performance requirements defined above. Operators who wish to apply for acceptance of an alternative cooling process should present the draft project to the Inspector in Charge or the Veterinarian in Charge who will, in collaboration with the Regional Veterinary Officer and the Area Red Meat Program Specialist, to complete the primary evaluation. The proposal will need to be assessed at the headquarters level, and may involve a review by Health Canada. The proposal must be supported by scientific data provided within the submission. Operators should be advised that the time required reviewing and accepting an alternative cooling process will depend on the quality and completeness of the submitted data and will be lengthy. The alternative cooling process cannot be used prior to having been accepted by the National Red Meat Program Specialist.

17.11.6 Shipping of Incompletely Chilled Meat Products

17.11.6.1 Shipping Between Registered Establishments

The CFIA has received requests to permit the shipping of certain specific types of meat products (i.e. carcasses, primal cuts, sub-primal cuts, trim and edible offal) between registered establishments before the meat products have been fully chilled (to 4°C or less) or frozen (to 0°C or less).

This process is not considered an "Alternative cooling process" as long as all the criteria listed in 17.11.4 are met, however the following conditions must be met to allow this practice:

  • The product complies with the specific standard described under section 17.11.4.
  • The operator presents a written document to the Inspector in Charge or the Veterinarian in Charge in which the respective responsibilities of each of the establishments involved in the cooling of the product are outlined.
  • Those shared responsibilities are endorsed by a representative of each of the establishments involved and are revised annually or whenever a change in procedures or responsibilities takes place.
  • The establishment which ships the meat products has included in the HACCP system controls over the following (see notes below):
    • refrigeration of product prior to loading;
    • temperature of meat products at the time of load-out;
    • product temperature during shipping; and
    • time between transport vehicle/container loading and unloading.
  • The establishment which receives the meat products has included in the HACCP system controls over the following:
    • temperature of products when unloaded;
    • temperature of products during further chilling (until the product has reached a temperature of 4°C).

Notes:

  1. The establishment's HACCP system will determine where to place the appropriate control points for hazards related to chilling of product and shipping of incompletely chilled product between establishments. The establishment's hazard assessment, critical control point determination, validation and ongoing verification processes will need to include real-time data collected during actual shipping and which reflects worst-case conditions. This will need to include physical data (for example, temperature curves), microbiological data (for example, total plate counts, generic E. coli swab results, etc.) and other data (for example, Total Fatty Acids for products used in edible rendering).
  2. If an establishment ships incompletely chilled product to more than one establishment, the controls will need to be validated and verified for each of the receiving establishments.
  3. Generic E. coli testing which is done on carcasses shipped before 12 hours, must be done at each of the establishments which receive the carcasses. These results will need to also be provided to the abattoir of origin.
  4. In the case of registered storages which receive a non-fully refrigerated product for blast freezing, the approval is conditional to the availability of sufficient CFIA inspection resources to provide required additional inspection activities.

17.11.6.2 Shipping Between a Registered Establishment and a Non-Registered Establishment

This section is currently under review.

17.11.7 Cooling Performance Standards for Carcass Parts

For the purpose of this section:

The term "carcass part" is designated as all edible portions (offal, trims, meat, meat by-products) removed during dressing of the carcass.

The term "surface of concern" is designated as the surface of a carcass part that is exposed to contamination. For the purpose of validation of a cooling process used for carcass parts, the surface of concern, as a microbiological stand point, refer to:

  • the outer surface of each part when all surfaces are fully exposed to the cooling medium (e.g. the outer surface when parts are loosely placed on trays, racks or packed in ice, and are not immediately placed into cartons); or
  • the thermal center of the product mass when the surfaces are not fully exposed to the cooling medium (e.g. when parts are placed into cartons).

Carcass parts can be cooled in potable water, air chilled, packaged immediately after harvest or after partial chilling and blast frozen on site or in a remote location shortly after harvest. Using carbon dioxide in the packaging, or chilling individually vacuum packed offal in brine tunnels are also acceptable options.

Every operator shall develop, implement and maintain a control program to ensure compliance with the following cooling performance standard:

  • The cooling of the carcass part is continuous at the level of its surface of concern.
  • The surface of concern is 7°C or less within 12 hours after the carcass part is harvested.
  • The temperature of the carcass part must continue to go down in a continuous manner to 4°C or less after the standard is met. This should take place as quickly as possible and the cooling media (during the cooling from 7°C to 4°C) shall be maintained at a maximum temperature of 4°C.
  • Product temperature requirements are met at the time of shipping.
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