Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Black challenges chicken sales

Glenn Black, president of Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada, is asking the federal government whether it’s illegal to sell chicken.

In a letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, he notes that the law says:

No person shall sell an article of food that:

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption;

(c) consists in whole or in part any filthy, putrid, disgusting rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under
unsanitary conditions.

And then he notes that Health Canada studies, plus many others, have found that 30 to 80 per cent of the chicken on sale at Canadian supermarkets is contaminated with Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, verotoxigenic Escherichia coli, and Escherichia coli.

And he asks a couple of questions:

1. Are E. Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and/or other human pathogen considered by CFIA to meet the definitions of one or more prohibited substances or processes as defined by Article 4 of Canada's Food & Drug Act? If yes, which ones? If no, please fully describe and justify CFIA's position.

2. Is there strict liability for Article 4? In other words, if someone takes "reasonable precautions" to avoid all of these prohibited conditions or processes, is that good enough to avoid prosecution and conviction, even if somebody dies from resulting food poisoning? Is mens rea required to be proved in CFIA's opinion?  If someone knew, or ought to have known that an article of food for sale (or sold) was contaminated, is that sufficient to prosecute and obtain conviction in CFIA's opinion?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency tossed these hot potatoes over to Health Canada.

It’s been more than a year since Black wrote the letter, so this week he has renewed it in an open letter to Health Canada, asking for answers.