Health Canada Updates Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods

Health Canada Updates Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods

March 30, 2023 By

On March 27, 2023, Health Canada updated the “Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods”. This new policy will come into effect on October 1, 2023. Until then, the 2011 Listeria policy will remain in effect.

Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen. It causes an estimated 134 hospitalizations annually in Canada. Meat and poultry products are the most common sources of listeria outbreaks, followed by produce and dairy products, however, they can occur in just about any other food category. Listeria infections can result in severe diseases, especially among vulnerable populations. Foodborne outbreaks of listeriosis have mostly been linked to ready-to-eat (RTE) foods that are not normally further prepared before consumption.

Purpose and Scope

This policy relates to the application, implementation, and verification of control measures for L. monocytogenes in RTA foods. Under this policy, RTE should be produced under conditions that will minimize or prevent the introduction and/or growth of L. monocytogenes. This can be accomplished by:

  • Adhering to Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and/or GMPs
  • Following a HACCP plan or Preventative Control Plan
  • Conducting environmental sampling for Listeria in the plant
  • Controlling processing steps that eliminate or reduce the number of L. monocytogenes.
  • Preventing L. monocytogenes from being introduced in post-process areas prior to packaging when foods are exposed to the environment

What are the Changes to the Policy

  • Improvements to readability and clarity
  • Focusing on the outcomes-based regulatory landscape for domestic manufacturers, importers, and exporters of RTE foods
  • More detail on specific food businesses, activities, and foods for which the Listeria policy does not apply
  • Modification of the definition of an “RTE food”
  • A decision tree to facilitate the categorization of RTE foods
  • More detail on foods specifically produced for consumption by vulnerable populations

How do I Prepare for the New Policy?

The best way to be compliant with the new policy is to have a food safety program in place that meets GAP, GMP, and HACCP requirements. If you need support with food safety program development click here. Once you have a food safety program in place that you are confident will meet the updated policy requirements, it is recommended your facility be audited against GAP, GMP, and HACCP requirements by an independent auditor.

For more information about this, or any other food safety and quality matters, please get in touch with dicentra.