Saturday, April 4, 2015

War of words on food safety in Alberta

There is a war of words taking place in Northern Alberta with unionized meat inspectors saying there are drastic cuts underway, but the head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency saying the union is wrong to claim that half the staff is being cut.

The Calgary Herald cites documents saying meat inspection is being cut to three days a week for some processing plants in Northern Alberta.

While inspection remains at full complement for exported meats, there are cuts underway for meat to be sold to Canadians, the report says.

This is old, old news. I have reported often that the CFIA places priority on exports. Canadians get thrown under the bus.

The controversy has erupted as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is trying to deal with a cut of $43.3 million to its budget.

Responsibility for the CFIA meat inspection service has been pulled from under Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and given to Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

Meanwhile, the Lilydale poultry processing plant in Alberta is faced with another recall for Listeria monocytogenes food-poisoning bacteria.

The first recall was for chicken; the second is for turkey.

The Calgary Herald says both were processed on the same line and that Listeria showed up in swabs taken from processing equipment.

Professor Rick Holly of the University of Manitoba says there has been a nine-fold increase in the number of CFIA recalls for Listeria this year.

He also questioned a report the CFIA posted on its website, boasting that Canada ranked first among 17 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Holly said it’s difficult to compare information across countries.

But Sylvain Charlebois, an economist at the University of Guelph, cited that report and said there is no magic number of food inspectors that will guarantee food safety.

Prof. Doug Powell concluded on his website that “Rick knows food safety.”