Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]

Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star


Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]

Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
By Ross Anderson, Food Safety News

Ten years ago, the picturesque farming town of Walkerton, Ontario, was plunged into a nightmare of food poisoning that sickened 2,300 residents, killed seven, and terrorized the town and its surroundings for weeks.  [More…]


Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star

It has been nearly two years since Maple Leaf Foods agreed to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide outbreak of listeriosis linked to its deli meats, but not a single cheque has been signed.  [More…]
By Ross Anderson, Food Safety News

Ten years ago, the picturesque farming town of Walkerton, Ontario, was plunged into a nightmare of food poisoning that sickened 2,300 residents, killed seven, and terrorized the town and its surroundings for weeks.  [More…]

By Ross Anderson, Food Safety News

Ten years ago, the picturesque farming town of Walkerton, Ontario, was plunged into a nightmare of food poisoning that sickened 2,300 residents, killed seven, and terrorized the town and its surroundings for weeks.  [More…]

To: Members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food

The inspection of food imports in Canada is one of the weakest components of the CFIA’s work.  Consider:

There are no inspectors dedicated to imports for food safety purposes

CFIA cannot afford to dedicate full time inspectors to ensure the safety of imported food products. The only inspectors dedicated to food imports (in the Destination Inspection Service) are wholly funded by industry and their purpose is purely commercial — to determine the quality and grade of imported products, and therefore their market value — not to identify threats to public health and safety.

CFIA inspectors are responsible for the inspection of both import and export food products

For CFIA, certifying food exports is 100% mandatory.  When it comes to inspection of food imports, however, the CFIA has wide discretion to allow them onto grocery store shelves uninspected. This creates an impossible balancing act for inspectors and the CFIA who are subject to heavy pressure from the Canadian food industry to certify their shipments for export.  Everyone knows the unofficial priority is export certification.  In the present resource-starved circumstances, CFIA and its inspectors are too often faced with an impossible balancing act where the inspection of imported products always takes a back seat to export certifications.

Stopping unsafe food from reaching grocery shelves is not the purpose of import inspection and less than 2% of food imported into Canada is inspected

The vast majority of import inspections are conducted to protect plant and animal health, not human health.  Inspections of products intended for human consumption are conducted primarily to monitor trends and not to prevent dangerous good from reaching store shelves.  For example, in the unlikely event that the CFIA inspects a shipment of fresh produce that is observed to be contaminated by an insecticide or fungicide (because it is covered with a coat white powder, for example), results from laboratory tests would not be available until long after that product had reached the dining room table.

Inspectors and consumers have no way of knowing what treatments have been applied to imported raw products like fruits and veggies

Importers of raw fruits and vegetables must declare only those treatments required by Canadian import regulations; any other chemical treatments not required to gain access to Canadian consumers do not have to be declared.  Knowing this, CFIA inspectors take appropriate precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and/or breathing apparatus, when inspecting these kinds of imports because they have no way of knowing what poisonous or dangerous chemicals have been applied to the products they are handling.  Unfortunately, downstream food handlers and consumers are unaware that such precautions may be necessary.

CFIA is not able to ensure equivalency with Canadian standards in the food safety systems of countries that export food to Canada

To our knowledge, CFIA has not conducted any periodic foreign country equivalency assessments in 2010 with the exception of the United States (a report on this audit was posted on CFIA’s website on November 15th).  Unless it’s a special situation they just don’t go to foreign countries.  This is in spite of the fact that the CFIA’s internal audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety released in July 2010 included this troubling finding:

“According to the Import Control Policy, greater emphasis was to be placed on foreign country equivalency assessments and audits to reduce dependence on downstream controls (e.g. for border point of entry or destination controls).  While initial foreign country equivalency assessments were conducted with some countries (e.g. United States), periodic foreign country equivalency audits are only partially delivered and no foreign country equivalency controls are in place for food commodity programs other than meat, fish and seafood, and egg. Imports of other food commodities rely almost exclusively on destination inspections and projects.”

79% of food imports come from ten countries – US, Mexico, China, France, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Australia and the UK.  Apart from the US, were any periodic equivalency audits done in 2010?

The Management of Imported Food Safety Audit also found:

  • “Consistent, comprehensive training was not evident in all programs particularly where higher work pressures exist.”
  • “Staff resources have not been re-allocated to address changing import priorities, leading to difficulty in providing sufficient staff resources where significant increases in import related workloads have occurred.  Workload increases were particularly evident in Toronto region.”
  • “Sampling plans in some programs are partially under-delivered making it difficult to assess to what extent compliance is achieved.  Systems to track current compliance and verification activities are not available for all programs.”

CFIA needs additional resources for import food inspection and has asked Treasury Board for more

In its response to the July 2010 Audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety, CFIA declare that it is awaiting a response to its Treasury Board submission for additional resources.  Details of CFIA’S request are unknown.  In the meantime, every CFIA program apart from processed meat inspection is under tremendous resource pressure.  For example, vacant positions in all programs except meat hygiene are not being filled.

CFIA faces funding cut

Against this backdrop, CFIA faces a significant cut to its budget of $1.8 million due to the salary freeze announced in the 2010 Budget, according to the Supplementary Estimates (B).  The CFIA’s plan to eliminate clerical positions will shift a significant administrative burden to frontline inspectors who will have less time to do their jobs to safeguard Canadian consumers.

CFIA’s plans to regulate food imports are a good idea in principle, but who will enforce the regulations?

CFIA simply does not have the inspection and enforcement resources to adequately discharge its mandate when it comes to domestic food production. So, regulating and licensing food importers will improve appearances only.

–end—

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592
To: Members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food

The inspection of food imports in Canada is one of the weakest components of the CFIA’s work.  Consider:

There are no inspectors dedicated to imports for food safety purposes

CFIA cannot afford to dedicate full time inspectors to ensure the safety of imported food products. The only inspectors dedicated to food imports (in the Destination Inspection Service) are wholly funded by industry and their purpose is purely commercial — to determine the quality and grade of imported products, and therefore their market value — not to identify threats to public health and safety.

CFIA inspectors are responsible for the inspection of both import and export food products

For CFIA, certifying food exports is 100% mandatory.  When it comes to inspection of food imports, however, the CFIA has wide discretion to allow them onto grocery store shelves uninspected. This creates an impossible balancing act for inspectors and the CFIA who are subject to heavy pressure from the Canadian food industry to certify their shipments for export.  Everyone knows the unofficial priority is export certification.  In the present resource-starved circumstances, CFIA and its inspectors are too often faced with an impossible balancing act where the inspection of imported products always takes a back seat to export certifications.

Stopping unsafe food from reaching grocery shelves is not the purpose of import inspection and less than 2% of food imported into Canada is inspected

The vast majority of import inspections are conducted to protect plant and animal health, not human health.  Inspections of products intended for human consumption are conducted primarily to monitor trends and not to prevent dangerous good from reaching store shelves.  For example, in the unlikely event that the CFIA inspects a shipment of fresh produce that is observed to be contaminated by an insecticide or fungicide (because it is covered with a coat white powder, for example), results from laboratory tests would not be available until long after that product had reached the dining room table.

Inspectors and consumers have no way of knowing what treatments have been applied to imported raw products like fruits and veggies

Importers of raw fruits and vegetables must declare only those treatments required by Canadian import regulations; any other chemical treatments not required to gain access to Canadian consumers do not have to be declared.  Knowing this, CFIA inspectors take appropriate precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and/or breathing apparatus, when inspecting these kinds of imports because they have no way of knowing what poisonous or dangerous chemicals have been applied to the products they are handling.  Unfortunately, downstream food handlers and consumers are unaware that such precautions may be necessary.

CFIA is not able to ensure equivalency with Canadian standards in the food safety systems of countries that export food to Canada

To our knowledge, CFIA has not conducted any periodic foreign country equivalency assessments in 2010 with the exception of the United States (a report on this audit was posted on CFIA’s website on November 15th).  Unless it’s a special situation they just don’t go to foreign countries.  This is in spite of the fact that the CFIA’s internal audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety released in July 2010 included this troubling finding:

“According to the Import Control Policy, greater emphasis was to be placed on foreign country equivalency assessments and audits to reduce dependence on downstream controls (e.g. for border point of entry or destination controls).  While initial foreign country equivalency assessments were conducted with some countries (e.g. United States), periodic foreign country equivalency audits are only partially delivered and no foreign country equivalency controls are in place for food commodity programs other than meat, fish and seafood, and egg. Imports of other food commodities rely almost exclusively on destination inspections and projects.”

79% of food imports come from ten countries – US, Mexico, China, France, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Australia and the UK.  Apart from the US, were any periodic equivalency audits done in 2010?

The Management of Imported Food Safety Audit also found:

  • “Consistent, comprehensive training was not evident in all programs particularly where higher work pressures exist.”
  • “Staff resources have not been re-allocated to address changing import priorities, leading to difficulty in providing sufficient staff resources where significant increases in import related workloads have occurred.  Workload increases were particularly evident in Toronto region.”
  • “Sampling plans in some programs are partially under-delivered making it difficult to assess to what extent compliance is achieved.  Systems to track current compliance and verification activities are not available for all programs.”

CFIA needs additional resources for import food inspection and has asked Treasury Board for more

In its response to the July 2010 Audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety, CFIA declare that it is awaiting a response to its Treasury Board submission for additional resources.  Details of CFIA’S request are unknown.  In the meantime, every CFIA program apart from processed meat inspection is under tremendous resource pressure.  For example, vacant positions in all programs except meat hygiene are not being filled.

CFIA faces funding cut

Against this backdrop, CFIA faces a significant cut to its budget of $1.8 million due to the salary freeze announced in the 2010 Budget, according to the Supplementary Estimates (B).  The CFIA’s plan to eliminate clerical positions will shift a significant administrative burden to frontline inspectors who will have less time to do their jobs to safeguard Canadian consumers.

CFIA’s plans to regulate food imports are a good idea in principle, but who will enforce the regulations?

CFIA simply does not have the inspection and enforcement resources to adequately discharge its mandate when it comes to domestic food production. So, regulating and licensing food importers will improve appearances only.

–end—

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592
To: Members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food

The inspection of food imports in Canada is one of the weakest components of the CFIA’s work.  Consider:

There are no inspectors dedicated to imports for food safety purposes

CFIA cannot afford to dedicate full time inspectors to ensure the safety of imported food products. The only inspectors dedicated to food imports (in the Destination Inspection Service) are wholly funded by industry and their purpose is purely commercial — to determine the quality and grade of imported products, and therefore their market value — not to identify threats to public health and safety.

CFIA inspectors are responsible for the inspection of both import and export food products

For CFIA, certifying food exports is 100% mandatory.  When it comes to inspection of food imports, however, the CFIA has wide discretion to allow them onto grocery store shelves uninspected. This creates an impossible balancing act for inspectors and the CFIA who are subject to heavy pressure from the Canadian food industry to certify their shipments for export.  Everyone knows the unofficial priority is export certification.  In the present resource-starved circumstances, CFIA and its inspectors are too often faced with an impossible balancing act where the inspection of imported products always takes a back seat to export certifications.

Stopping unsafe food from reaching grocery shelves is not the purpose of import inspection and less than 2% of food imported into Canada is inspected

The vast majority of import inspections are conducted to protect plant and animal health, not human health.  Inspections of products intended for human consumption are conducted primarily to monitor trends and not to prevent dangerous good from reaching store shelves.  For example, in the unlikely event that the CFIA inspects a shipment of fresh produce that is observed to be contaminated by an insecticide or fungicide (because it is covered with a coat white powder, for example), results from laboratory tests would not be available until long after that product had reached the dining room table.

Inspectors and consumers have no way of knowing what treatments have been applied to imported raw products like fruits and veggies

Importers of raw fruits and vegetables must declare only those treatments required by Canadian import regulations; any other chemical treatments not required to gain access to Canadian consumers do not have to be declared.  Knowing this, CFIA inspectors take appropriate precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and/or breathing apparatus, when inspecting these kinds of imports because they have no way of knowing what poisonous or dangerous chemicals have been applied to the products they are handling.  Unfortunately, downstream food handlers and consumers are unaware that such precautions may be necessary.

CFIA is not able to ensure equivalency with Canadian standards in the food safety systems of countries that export food to Canada

To our knowledge, CFIA has not conducted any periodic foreign country equivalency assessments in 2010 with the exception of the United States (a report on this audit was posted on CFIA’s website on November 15th).  Unless it’s a special situation they just don’t go to foreign countries.  This is in spite of the fact that the CFIA’s internal audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety released in July 2010 included this troubling finding:

“According to the Import Control Policy, greater emphasis was to be placed on foreign country equivalency assessments and audits to reduce dependence on downstream controls (e.g. for border point of entry or destination controls).  While initial foreign country equivalency assessments were conducted with some countries (e.g. United States), periodic foreign country equivalency audits are only partially delivered and no foreign country equivalency controls are in place for food commodity programs other than meat, fish and seafood, and egg. Imports of other food commodities rely almost exclusively on destination inspections and projects.”

79% of food imports come from ten countries – US, Mexico, China, France, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Australia and the UK.  Apart from the US, were any periodic equivalency audits done in 2010?

The Management of Imported Food Safety Audit also found:

  • “Consistent, comprehensive training was not evident in all programs particularly where higher work pressures exist.”
  • “Staff resources have not been re-allocated to address changing import priorities, leading to difficulty in providing sufficient staff resources where significant increases in import related workloads have occurred.  Workload increases were particularly evident in Toronto region.”
  • “Sampling plans in some programs are partially under-delivered making it difficult to assess to what extent compliance is achieved.  Systems to track current compliance and verification activities are not available for all programs.”

CFIA needs additional resources for import food inspection and has asked Treasury Board for more

In its response to the July 2010 Audit of the Management of Imported Food Safety, CFIA declare that it is awaiting a response to its Treasury Board submission for additional resources.  Details of CFIA’S request are unknown.  In the meantime, every CFIA program apart from processed meat inspection is under tremendous resource pressure.  For example, vacant positions in all programs except meat hygiene are not being filled.

CFIA faces funding cut

Against this backdrop, CFIA faces a significant cut to its budget of $1.8 million due to the salary freeze announced in the 2010 Budget, according to the Supplementary Estimates (B).  The CFIA’s plan to eliminate clerical positions will shift a significant administrative burden to frontline inspectors who will have less time to do their jobs to safeguard Canadian consumers.

CFIA’s plans to regulate food imports are a good idea in principle, but who will enforce the regulations?

CFIA simply does not have the inspection and enforcement resources to adequately discharge its mandate when it comes to domestic food production. So, regulating and licensing food importers will improve appearances only.

–end—

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

For immediate release October 16, 2015

Niagara Falls, ON– Two of the four major land crossings from the US into Canada in the Niagara Region are unattended by inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, leaving agricultural producers in the region wide open to pests and diseases that could devastate the industry and threaten Canada’s bio-security.

In 2014, the Rainbow and Whirlpool bridges, which convey millions of private vehicles into Canada from the US, were unattended by CFIA. The two commercial land crossings into Canada at the Peace and the Queenston-Lewiston bridges saw federal inspectors present checking commercial vehicles for pests and other threats only one day out of 38 because they can’t afford to be there more often.

At a news conference this morning with NDP candidates Malcolm Allen (Niagara Centre), the Official Opposition critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Carolynn Ioannoni (Niagara Falls), the unions representing food and plant inspectors and border guards released information obtained from front line inspectors that shows Canadian Food Inspection Agency border presence is woefully inadequate.

Major Ontario Border Crossings

                                                                                    

Frequency of CFIA presence in 2014
Niagara Region (commercial crossings only) 1 in 38 days
Windsor Gateway 1 in 30 days
Pearson Airport 1 in 60 days

At Port Metro Vancouver, the busiest seaport in all of Canada, CFIA inspectors will be on site for general import inspection twice in 2015. And at the busiest land crossing in the west, Pacific Highway, there will be no CFIA inspectors conducting import inspections on site at any time during the year.

“This is happening across the country, not only in Ontario. While we are not watching, serious pests and diseases are likely crossing the border, embedded in wooden packing materials or in the trunk of one of the millions of cars that freely enter into Canada every year without inspection. We have our guard down and there could be a disaster in the making right now because it can take up to a decade for harmful pests and diseases to be noticed. By then, it’s too late to control them,” said Bob Kingston, President of the Agriculture Union – PSAC.

For the CFIA, it’s all about a lack of resources. Since 2012, the federal government has cut the CFIA’s budget for plant protection by 14%.

Fruit growers and the economy in the Niagara region could face devastating consequences on a scale similar to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive alien species that has cost the Canadian economy $500 million in damage since it became established or the Plum Pox Virus which is already hurting stone fruit producers in Canada.

NDP MP Malcolm Allen and candidate in Niagara Centre said: “Willful neglect on the part of the Harper government is placing an industry vital to our region at risk. An NDP government would not allow this. We have a plan to boost inspection and it can’t happen soon enough as far as I am concerned.”

In 2005, responsibility for border control of food products and agricultural pests and diseases was transferred from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to the Canadian Border Services Agency. But the CBSA has other priorities and defence of Canada’s border from threats to Canada’s biosecurity has fallen through the cracks as federal budget cuts have forced the CBSA to shed 1100 positions since the beginning of 2013.

A measure of this decline is the number of insect pest interceptions submitted to CFIA testing labs which have plummeted from almost 600 in 2005 to fewer than 60 in 2014. Testing for agricultural/forestry diseases are almost nil.

“The CBSA simply does not have the resources to protect Canada’s bio-security. Our members are directed to pursue other priorities at the border,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, National President of the Customs and Immigration Union.

On paper, the CFIA and the CBSA co-operate to do some border inspections. But the Harper government’s first priority of a balanced budget and deep tax cuts means this effort is falling short. In spite of promises to conduct 100 joint “border blitzes” – the main import control tool used by the CFIA in conjunction with the Canadian Border Services Agency – they are on track to do only a fraction of this promised surveillance this year.

“Ottawa has a duty to protect Canadian farmers and our bio-security, a duty the Harper government is failing at miserably,” said Carolynn Ioannoni, NDP candidate for Niagara Falls.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

 

 
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