Nunatsiaq Online
LETTERS: Nunavut March 24, 2014 - 10:43 am

Are raw meat products in Iqaluit inspected for safety?

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
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In the interest of public health and safety,  could the Government of Nunavut minister or senior public servant responsible for food inspection in Iqaluit explain why certain grocery stores here are permitted to keep “fresh” meats (beef cubes, strip loin, sirloin and rib eye steaks, chicken breasts and drumsticks and portioned and bulk raw Italian sausage etc.) on the shelves of faulty or under-refrigerated cooler-showcases for as long as seven days past their “best before” or expiry dates?

They are essentially at room temperature but this is an educated guess because there are no thermometers in view on these refrigeration units.

In the case of the raw Italian sausage, no date whatsoever is marked on the package.

Vacuum packaging extends fresh meats’ shelf life only for so long (at the allowable temperature range of 1 degree C to 4 degrees C) and a qualified meat manager would know this.

So why aren’t the retailers required to prove some qualifications or expertise in perishable food safety and handling before they are permitted to open their doors to the general public.

I presume a public health inspector could answer these questions — if we could actually find one in Iqaluit.  A helpful tip might be to place stickers on fresh meat showcases with handling-cooking instructions and 24-hour contact numbers for the local health inspectors so we could report any suspicious observations and help prevent the growth and possible ingestion of harmful food-poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella (S.enteritidis, S. typhimirium), Campylobacter (C. jejuni), Listeria, Clostridium (perfringens and boluminum,) Escherichia Coli (E. coli) and, in the case of raw pork, the disease Trichinosis, caused mainly by the improper storage and consumption of raw commercial meat products.

If the chocolate covered almonds (on sale for a very worthy charity) at the local air freight cargo offices are required to have an expiry date, why not raw pork in the grocery stores?

I am sending two pictures of some of the same lot of chicken parts and pork chops that have been reduced for clearance. Perishable meats are not something generally allowed to stay, given the obvious risks, on the shelves like older cans of pop or soup and we can only guess how much outdated product was sold before the replacements were put out?

The chicken pieces do, in fact, have a “best before” date (March 22) furnished by the wholesale supplier. But this date would only be applicable under ideal shipping and storage conditions so local retailers should be far more sensitive to the realities of keeping perishables up to and at their peak dates here.

The pork chops have only a store-printed date (March 15) and it is unclear if this is the packaging date or expiry date but, as I have been paying close attention, my opinion is that it is the latter.

I sense that these oversights were not committed intentionally but someone from public health or store management should be paying closer attention.

A sad irony here is that the stewing beef cubes at Walmart, Ottawa are priced at $15.37 per kilo while at Ventures here are only $11.99 per kilo.

I apologise in advance if these observations disturb anyone’s sleep.

(Name withheld by request)
Iqaluit



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