With 15 deaths out of 29 confirmed cases of listeriosis, and the 30 new cases still pending, Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors are blaming understaffing and new procedures in the privatization of food safety.
G&M : "At the Maple Leaf plant behind the listeria outbreak, a single federal inspector was relegated to auditing company paperwork and had to deal with several other plants, the manager and the union official said, contradicting the impression that officials had left last week that full-time watchdogs were on-site."
Former CFIA inspector Bob Kingston :
"Under the old system, inspectors had a more hands-on role on the plant floor, did more of the tests themselves and had more freedom to investigate.
Under the new rules, instead of heading to the plant floor to inspect with their own eyes, inspectors are sent to the office to confirm that the meat packer has performed the required tests and the results are satisfactory."
"We don't swab for listeria any more. The industry does all that themselves," he said. "They just document all this stuff. We read their reports. If their reports say they do everything fine, then they do everything fine."
"The federal rules require only that inspectors perform three or four random tests annually at a plant, Richard Arsenault, a manager at the CFIA, said in an interview. The rest of the time, inspectors rely on the company."
The Maple Leaf Toronto plant was one of the plants where the CFIA began testing the new industry-based inspection system a year ago.
Yesterday Harper and Clement moved quickly into damage control :
Harper : "I think all of us, and obviously I include my own family in this, we expect that when we shop that the things we buy or that we eat are going to be safe."
Harper cited increased resources and inspectors in the last federal budget as examples of how the government realizes it is necessary to "reform and revamp" Canada's food and product inspection processes after "some years of neglect."
"All members of government have been on top of this," Harper said.
Health Minister TonyClement :
"Government policy was to hire 200 more inspectors, that's what we've done since we achieved power in January '06," he said from the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo.
"When it comes to health and safety, you can't scrimp and save; you've got to do your job on behalf of Canadians and that's what we're doing."
What you're doing is privatizing food safety as outlined in the SPP and lying about it.
A government food safety scientist was fired for sending this November 13, 2007 confidential memo (warning : pdf) off to his union that states :
"reduce the need for ongoing CFIA inspection and would shift CFIA's role to oversight and industry verification" and
"shifting program delivery... (including inspection) to an industry-led third party."
The horrible irony here is that in our rush to align with the U.S., we haven't adopted U.S. food safety methods, some of which like irradiation are arguably purported to be an improvement. No, we've only adopted the privatization, allowing industry to police themselves.
Presumably a full scale government assault on CFIA for being unable to deliver under these conditions is now underway and more industry oversight will be recommended.
Outsourcing food safety to industry Part 1
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