An in-depth investigative report by Global TV has echoed the Agriculture Union’s concerns over cuts to both the quality and quantity of food inspection.
The report, entitled Tainted lunch: Navigating gaps in Canada’s food safety system, was aired the first week in June. A lengthy article posted HERE on the Global TV Web site summarizes the results of the investigation.
Seeking information through freedom-of-information laws, Global focused on last summer’s e-coli outbreak in Alberta. Contaminated pork sickened over 100 people, many of them children who were stricken with failing kidneys. The province’s food-safety inspectors never found the source of the tainted meat.
Although federal inspection was not involved in this instance, the Alberta outbreak paralleled the infamous 2008 Maple Leaf listeria crisis and the XL Foods e-coli outbreak of 2012. In both cases, the food safety and security system failed to catch the problem at the source, endangering the public.
Pointing to a recent Ipsos poll that revealed 78 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the safety of the food they eat, the Global report noted that “even as food supply chains become more complex, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has fewer resources to police it and less of an emphasis on preventing outbreaks rather than responding to them after the fact.”
Agriculture Union National President Bob Kingston, in an extensive interview that formed part of the Global report, noted that Canadians are being misled when the Conservative government and CFIA management say that “everything is fine”.
“Every program is being cut. In some way, shape or form there are corners being cut. There are processes being expedited beyond the comfort level of the people trying to deliver the (inspection) programs,” Kingston pointed out.
While Health Minister Rona Ambrose this spring told a Parliamentary committee that there were “no cuts” to CFIA, the Agency in fact is in the midst of losing almost 1,000 full-time positions over seven years.
Tellingly, neither Ambrose nor Canadian Food Inspection Agency President Bruce Archibald, responded to Global TV’s initial request for interviews.