MASSE CALLS FOR GREATER SCRUTINY ON FOOD SAFETY: Continues Call for Immediate Investigations into Meat Inspections at Canadian Borders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2010

MASSE CALLS FOR GREATER SCRUTINY ON FOOD SAFETY: Continues Call for Immediate Investigations into Meat Inspections at Canadian Borders

Windsor, ON- Today, NDP Industry, Automotive, and Border Critic Brian Masse (Windsor West), followed up on his February 24, 2010, letter to Canada’s Auditor General (AG) Sheila Fraser, calling for immediate action to protect Canadian consumers from potential health hazards related to American meat that is not being inspected once crossing the border into Canada.

This is in light of new information that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) auditors recently found that Canada was not meeting its inspection requirements on Canadian meats entering the USA which prompted stricter inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in order to meet these US trade and food safety standards.

“How can the CFIA step up inspections for meats leaving Canada, but yet refuses to act on inspecting the meats coming across the United States border, which will be consumed by Canadians?” questioned Masse. “This is unacceptable and Canadians deserve fairer treatment from their own government when it comes to health and safety.”

“This double standard is completely unacceptable,” said NDP Food Safety Critic Malcolm Allen (Welland). “Canadian lives are not worth less than Americans’, and exports should not be given priority over food destined for Canadian dinner tables.”

This is a continuation of Masse’s work to have the AG investigate the imported meat inspection regime on this side of the border.

(Letter copied below).

“Dear Ms. Fraser,

I am following up on my letter to you from February 24, 2010, where I shared my concerns regarding the Canadian Customs Inspections processes in place for American meats entering our Canadian food supply. Further information has surfaced on this issue which I do believe causes even greater concern to the previous events that I highlighted in February and which I believe you should be aware.

Most recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) auditors of our Canadian meat inspection regime have raised a number of concerns relating to the inspections process and the consequences that proper inspections can have on human health, employment and trade. These auditors have found that Canada is not meeting USDA inspection requirements for processed meats entering into their USA Market as well.

These findings have prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to increase its scheduled meat inspection cycle for products bound only for the United States, and unfortunately to date, have not increased the inspection cycle on the US meats entering Canada.

Recently Minister Ritz announced that a number of new inspectors will be hired in 2010, this is in addition to the 70 new inspectors added in September of 2009. However, according Bob Kingston President of the PSAC Agriculture Union, this is not enough to guarantee the integrity of Canada’s food safety regime. Mr. Kingston was recently quoted as saying:

“Unless the government makes new investments in food safety, the CFIA will face a choice: ignore the USDA’s demands and risk losing access to the US market for Canadian processed meat products, or elevate food contamination risks for Canadian consumers by diverting scarce resources away from other inspection programs...CFIA will be forced to bleed inspection resources once intended to safeguard Canadian consumers since the government has not delivered on its promise of more food inspectors to date.”

The Agriculture Union has further noted that these new staffing measures have not offset the loss of CFIA inspectors through attrition. If this is the case, then our food inspection regime is likely less effective than it was prior to the Listeriosis outbreak of August 2008.

As you are likely aware, the Government of Canada’s, Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak by Sheila Weatherill, examined the causes of that disaster in great detail and produced a series of recommendations meant to improve Canada’s food safety regime. To date, and according to Canada’s food inspectors, the CFIA has failed to implement the necessary measures.

Therefore, I am writing again to respectfully request that your office launch an immediate investigation into the Canadian imported meat inspection regime. I do believe that if the government is unwilling to implement the recommendations of its own report in a timely manner, and without concern especially for the health of all Canadian consumers, that Canadians still need protection from another potential food illness or disaster before it is too late. The USDA auditors have worked diligently to protect Americans and now it is time we stepped up and protected our own.

I do thank you again for taking these concerns seriously and look forward to your positive response. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly should you have any questions or concerns or should you require any further information on this matter.

Yours truly,

Brian Masse MP
Windsor West”

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For more information please contact:
Kieran McKenzie (519) 255-1631 or
Melanie Namespetra (613) 996-1541