The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will allow interprovincial trade of provincially inspected meat if necessary to alleviate meat shortages.
Moving meat not inspected by the federal system across a provincial border will require a ministerial exemption. A process to obtain that was released late last month.
The process is temporary, in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meat producer groups have advocated for decades for provincially inspected meat to be allowed across provincial borders. This could provide an opportunity to show that such a system could work.
Meat from federally inspected plants is only allowed to cross provincial borders for sale. Federal inspection is more rigid than provincial inspection, although provincial inspection standards are also high.
It is difficult for smaller meat processors to meet federal inspection rules, so it is mostly only larger plants that can move meat across the country.
The ministerial exemption was made with little fanfare.
In order for meat not from federally inspected plants to be moved across provincial borders, a food business experiencing a shortage has to request help from its provincial or territorial authority, which will determine if the situation fits under the ministerial exemption process.
Rules will still need to be followed relating to processing and labelling.
“The Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations as well as other relevant federal, provincial and territorial laws related to meat products would continue to apply, despite a ministerial exemption being granted,” said the CFIA on its website.
“Food labels must be truthful and not misleading and the information should continue to be provided in both official languages.”