Chapter 4 - Meat Processing Controls and Procedures
4.2 Handling of Meat Products

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Processing rooms (cutting and boning, formulation rooms, kitchens, packaging, etc.) must be equipped to accommodate the particular process or processes conducted therein.

4.2.1 Requirements for Cooling, Freezing and Room Temperatures

4.2.1.1 Refrigeration

In the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR) "refrigerate" means to lower the temperature of a meat product to, and to maintain the temperature at, 4°C or lower, but does not include to freeze.

For products stored under refrigerated conditions, the operator must have in place Control Programs to monitor the temperature of these products, such that the internal temperature of each product is 4°C or less but not frozen.

The mandatory outcome of refrigeration is to retarding outgrowth of pathogens and spoilage bacteria.

4.2.1.2 Environmental Temperature Conditions

Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR):

36. The temperature in a room or area of a registered establishment where a meat product is processed, packaged, labelled or handled shall be appropriate to ensure the preservation of a meat product.

The required outcome is to control the growth of microorganisms in the room or area used for the processing, packaging, labelling or handling of meat products. Room or area temperatures must also ensure control of product temperature during processing activities, such that there is no increase in bacterial growth of the product that would affect the validation of any further lethality step or validation of product shelf life.

The operator's written control program must justify the room or area temperature most appropriate for the specific processing step conducted therein, specifying hazards related to temperature abuse in the establishment HACCP system. Historically, a room temperature of 10°C has been considered sufficient by the CFIA for the preservation of meat products for most processing activities and steps. Alternative temperature control measures must provide the same or better outcome.

Where processing equipment, such as automated grinding, mechanical separation and other comminuting procedures, produce enough heat that could warm up the product's internal temperature significantly, the specific hazard for temperature abuse must be accounted for in the operator's HACCP system.

4.2.1.3 Freezing

Freezing reduces the temperature of a meat product below the freezing point, changing the state of water from liquid to solid form (ice). The formation of ice concentrates the dissolved solutes and reduces the water activity of the meat product. Freezing prevents the growth of, but does not destroy, microorganisms in food products.

The rate of freezing is important to prevent growth of microorganisms or production of their toxins prior to the product reaching freezing temperatures. Oxidative rancidity and other organoleptic quality issues can occur if freezing rates are slow. Operators should validate that their processes reduce the core temperature of products preserved by freezing, to a core temperature of -18°C within a time frame allowing for the preservation of organoleptic and microbiological qualities.

It is recommended that holding freezers be capable of maintaining temperatures of -18°C or colder.

Refer to Annex P of this chapter for the CFIA procedures to evaluate bulk container freezing processes for meat products.

Freezing as an application for destruction of the parasites Trichinella, and Cysticercus, is described in Annex B of this chapter and Chapter 17 respectively.

4.2.1.4 Crust Freezing

Rapid chilling methods which temporarily freeze a thin outer layer of skin and muscle (usually 3 to 4 mm thick) may be allowed under the following conditions:

  • the operator must submit to the Inspection In Charge, a written documented protocol for each product, outlining how the product will be identified and segregated into lots, the packaging method, type and temperature of the coolant, the duration of exposure to sub-freezing temperatures and the time period and location for the equilibrium of internal and external product temperatures such that an internal temperature is achieved at or below 4°C (but above -2°C);
  • the surface crusting must disappear within 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of completing the crust freezing process;
  • the process must be monitored, by a designated plant employee, a minimum of every two (2) hours for crust disappearance and internal product temperature;
  • the product must be labelled as either "previously frozen" or "frozen" whenever crust disappearance takes more than 150 minutes; and
  • records demonstrating compliance with all of the above listed requirements must be stored at the establishment for at least one year for each lot of product which is crust frozen.

4.2.2 Environmental Contamination

The operators must have procedures for control of environmental sources of contamination of meat product, including disposition of meat that has fallen on the floor, risk of contamination from condensation and storage of equipment. It the operator's responsibility to ensure that the procedures for environmental risk factors for contamination of product are effective and verifiable.

4.2.3 Defrosting or Thawing

Defrosting or thawing may be performed in air or water. The operator is responsible to ensure that the temperature of the meat is controlled to minimize the time that any portion of a meat product is above 4°C. Operators are responsible for establishing appropriate best before dates which take into account the length of time elapsed before the product was originally frozen.

The placing of frozen meat into cooking kettles without prior thawing is permitted only when a representative sample of the entire lot has been thawed and found to be sound and unadulterated.

Meat products which have been frozen and thawed for sale in a refrigerated state must be labeled in accordance with article B.01.080 of the Food and Drug Regulations as "previously frozen".

4.2.4 Rework

This is defined as the inclusion of a prepared meat product into another meat product. It is the responsibility of the operator to ensure that all the ingredients and components of the rework material are permitted in the meat product to which they are added. Special attention must be paid to the list of ingredients of the resulting meat product; all ingredients added either directly or by the means of a rework product must be accurately declared in the ingredients list of the resulting meat product. For more information see Chapter 7.

It should be noted that the presence of some curing aids may be found in significant amounts in the final product if their presence in the rework was not taken into consideration.

Sausages in artificial edible casings (e.g. collagen) are allowed as rework material in the preparation of sausages wrapped in artificial edible casings or natural casings, to a limit of 3% in weight of the new meat product. The artificial edible casing does not have to be declared on the label of the product.

Sausages in natural casings are only allowed as rework material in the preparation of equivalent meat products (i.e. also wrapped in natural casing), to a limit of 3% in weight of the new meat product. When meat products in natural casings are reworked special attention must be paid to the animal species from which the casings were derived in order to verify that labelling requirements are met.

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