Saturday, November 23, 2013

What took so long?

Health Minister Rona Ambrose, now that she has gained control of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, announced she's going to fine meat packers who fall short of standards.

What took so long?

The CFIA has had the power to administer fines, which they call "administrative monetary penalties" for years.

The CFIA has used them against truckers who fail to meet standards for humane treatment of livestock and poultry, to fine farmers who fail to tag cattle with identity numbers and to fine feed mills that fail to meet standards.

Why meat packers have been left untouched is simply astonishing. Did they carry that much lobbying clout when the CFIA was under the agriculture minister?

And was it a matter of the meat packers wanting to escape public scrutiny and attention because the levying of fines was open to Access to Information requests and, more recently, AMPs have been posted on the CFIA website?

Believe me, I filed a number of Access-to-Information requests to find out about AMPs levied on meat packers. The answer was, of course, none.

But we know for sure that not everything was sweetness and compliance at the meat-packing plants. 

Some - but far from all - of the shortcomings became obvious after the major food-poisoning cases related to processed meats marketed by Maple Leaf Foods and beef marketed by XL Foods Inc.

Would both have done a better job had there been administrative monetary  penalties and attendant publicity? 

I think probably so.

We shall see what happens now.