Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CFIA and union go public

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is cutting 192 workers and $35 million from its budget for Vancouver which is being used as a test for what could happen nationally, says the union representing staff.

That, the union says, means the CFIA will be neglecting some things it’s required to do and will increase risks for consumers.

The CFIA has countered, saying the union’s claims are not true.

Bob Kingston, president of the agriculture division of the Public Service Alliance of Canada,  is quoted by the Canadian press saying the staff in Vancouver are "all overworked. There's not a manager in the agency right now who will tell you that they have enough resources to fully deliver what they're legally required to deliver.”

"These legal requirements for the agency to still be looking at these products and to be actually worried about consumer protection have not gone away. The laws are still in place, the regulations are still in place. They've just stopped doing them," he said.

Kingston said residents in the Vancouver region have become "guinea pigs" for the government. He said a union review of CFIA online postings indicates its plans for this year include:
— A 60 per cent reduction in ground meat inspections. The union says that increases the risk that cheaters will mix in other meats,  such as pork, or substitute other filler. Europe had a major scandal last year when horse meat was found in what was supposed to be pure beef.
— There will be no cooking oil inspections. The union says oil can also be adulterated.
 Half of the inspectors checking independent food retailers will be cut.
— Routine menu checks, such as for product substitution and short measuring, won't occur.
— Inspectors will no longer check that grocers are storing food at the safe temperature.
The federal health ministry referred questions to the CFIA, which responded to the union's claims with a broad email.
"The statements by the union are false. There have been no cuts to food safety. 
"Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world," it said.
Don't you get tired of that line?

The agency acknowledged there have been recent changes to how it handles the Vancouver area,  Canadian Press reports.