Ottawa – The food safety bill introduced this afternoon is a good start at improving the safety of our food, according to the Agriculture Union which represents federal food inspectors.

“Generally speaking, the bill is a good start but we need to ensure that the proposed appeal mechanism does not give industry too much power to undermine the work of CFIA inspectors,” said Bob Kingston, President of the Union.

To avoid becoming just a paper exercise, the government must ensure the CFIA has adequate inspection resources. Currently the CFIA does not have adequate resources to ensure compliance with the new rules, especially with respect to imported food products.

Noting that the number of process meat inspectors almost doubled from 225 to 400 after the CFIA reviewed its inspection resource needs in that program following the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak, Kingston predicted a similar review of the CFIA’s other inspection programs would produce a comparable result.

“To make sure that all food safety systems are working properly to ensure the lowest risk to Canadians from the food we eat, the CFIA needs to double the inspection force,” Kingston said.

As many as 100 food inspectors will be fired as a result of the current downsizing of public services.

The bill proposes to increase financial penalties for companies that break the law.

“We hope the increased fines proposed by the government will send a message to the CFIA to take enforcement and prosecutions more seriously. Right now, too often the Agency walks away from prosecutions that are all ready to go for little reason,” Kingston said.

“The government has made an important policy statement today with the tabling of the Safe Food for Canadians Act. Now it’s up to the government to provide the CFIA with the resources to enforce the new rules and CFIA management to adopt a prevention mindset,” Kingston said.