March 14, 2013
Putting Canadians lives at risk: government cuts to food inspection
The Conservative government has cut $56 million from the budget of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), meaning that there are now fewer food safety inspectors checking Canadians' food for contamination and other hazards.
Based on projections presented by the CFIA in its Reports on Plans and Priorities for 2012-2013, over 300 full-time equivalent jobs will be cut by 2015, including 100 inspectors who have already been laid off.
As a result of the cutbacks imposed to date, the number of food-safety inspectors is returning to what it was in 2008, during the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. This is particularly concerning, given that the official investigation into the outbreak pointed to a shortage of inspectors back then as one of the reasons for the crisis: “In the lead up to the outbreak the number, capacity and training of inspectors assigned to Bartor Road (the tainted Maple Leaf plant) appear to have been stressed due to their responsibilities at other plants, the complexity of Bartor Road including its size and hours of operation, and necessary adjustments required by the implementation of the CVS.” (Weatherill Report)
To reduce costs, the CFIA has given more responsibility to the food industry to police its own safety practices. It asks companies to develop and implement their own risk-control systems, all the while reducing on-site inspections. The result: inspectors spend more time reviewing reports produced by the companies themselves then monitoring the way things are actually running in food plants. For many experts, the incidents at Maple Leaf in 2008 and at XL Foods in 2012 demonstrate the shortcomings of such an approach.
Several other CFIA programs and procedures have been eliminated or diminished due to the cuts, including the pre-market approval of meat labels, the verification of nutrition claims on food labels and the monitoring of meat imports. Meat from sick animal, moreover, could end up on your plate as a result of amendments to the Meat Inspection Regulations by the Harper government in 2012, made to provide more flexibility to the industry and reduce inspection costs.
Stay informed on food safety issues at foodsafetyfirst.ca
Date Modified : 2013/03/14