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Minister Ritz

Topic

CFIA internal staff briefing

“There will be no changes in frontline inspectors.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Cuts to frontline inspectors
“I don’t know how you take 10% of your budget and not deal with the front line.”
“…no way would we ever compromise food safety.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

“programming is not being affected.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Food safety
“The second element of this is pre-clearance for imported meat. In a similar kind of way we do it for meat and not for anybody else. And the question is once again why would you do it for meat and not for anybody else?”
The CFIA “will continue to do spot checks on the shelves after the fact and make sure that the audits follow through, that the labels are factual that they have the information consumers need”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Consumer protection
“…a full scale review of our labeling program writ large across the Agency (is underway). And, what that’s going to result in, in the same way as inspection modernization, in legislative and regulatory reform, is it will result in a new labeling program. The nature and structure of that labeling program, I have no idea.”
“…when it comes to meat, labels are still pre-approved, they’re still checked before anything hits the shelf.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Pre-market approval of meat labels
“Is this our responsibility?”

CFIA Executives comment on:

New inspection system

“…there is work underway to re-engineer how we do inspection.  The new inspection model which is being proposed will radically alter the way in which we actually do verification, and compliance and enforcement activities in the inspection space.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a meat group or a fish group or a label group. I don’t think we’re going to have those in the future.  We’re going to have people who do a series of activities.”

“we should look at working with associations.  Having industry take on a role (in enforcement).”

 The impact of budget cuts

“The idea of re-egineering the way we do program advice was going to happen with or without the budget.  What the budget has done is put us in a bit of a box.”

“I mean, the other big issue around this like everything else is we just don’t have sufficient bodies to do everything we’d like to do…”

 

Minister Ritz

Topic

CFIA internal staff briefing

“There will be no changes in frontline inspectors.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Cuts to frontline inspectors
“I don’t know how you take 10% of your budget and not deal with the front line.”
“…no way would we ever compromise food safety.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

“programming is not being affected.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Food safety
“The second element of this is pre-clearance for imported meat. In a similar kind of way we do it for meat and not for anybody else. And the question is once again why would you do it for meat and not for anybody else?”
The CFIA “will continue to do spot checks on the shelves after the fact and make sure that the audits follow through, that the labels are factual that they have the information consumers need”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Consumer protection
“…a full scale review of our labeling program writ large across the Agency (is underway). And, what that’s going to result in, in the same way as inspection modernization, in legislative and regulatory reform, is it will result in a new labeling program. The nature and structure of that labeling program, I have no idea.”
“…when it comes to meat, labels are still pre-approved, they’re still checked before anything hits the shelf.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Pre-market approval of meat labels
“Is this our responsibility?”

CFIA Executives comment on:

New inspection system

“…there is work underway to re-engineer how we do inspection.  The new inspection model which is being proposed will radically alter the way in which we actually do verification, and compliance and enforcement activities in the inspection space.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a meat group or a fish group or a label group. I don’t think we’re going to have those in the future.  We’re going to have people who do a series of activities.”

“we should look at working with associations.  Having industry take on a role (in enforcement).”

 The impact of budget cuts

“The idea of re-egineering the way we do program advice was going to happen with or without the budget.  What the budget has done is put us in a bit of a box.”

“I mean, the other big issue around this like everything else is we just don’t have sufficient bodies to do everything we’d like to do…”

 

Dedicated border clearance and tracking of imported meat products

Currently, meat imported into Canada is cleared at the border separate from other commodities because this product carries an especially high risk to consumers.  This CFIA unit clears 50, 000 meat import shipments every year.  It also carefully tracks key safety metrics such as compliance rates, nature of safety requirement violation and who the repeat offenders are.

There will be less inspection scrutiny of this high risk imported product and key intelligence that enables tracking of it will likely be lost when this program is cut because of the shortage of resources.

Consumer Protection Review

Widespread violation of consumer protection rules have recently been reported and industry has long pressured government to water down these provisions.  According to CFIA executives, industry pressure and lack of resources are driving this Agency-wide program review.

Consumer protection inspectors work to ensure the accuracy of company claims on product labels, and to verify the accuracy of:

  • product nutrition claims: this is critical safety information for anyone suffering from illnesses like diabetes, heart disease or life threatening allergies (already cancelled).
  • restaurant menu claims (already cancelled).
  • product net weight claims. Unless consumers go around with their own scale they might not be getting what they paid for.

Consumer protection retail inspections of local manufactured and imported food products have already been cancelled.

Pre-market approval of meat labels

Pre-market approval of meat labels was established for this high risk product to avoid the kind of fraudulent and other problematic claims found in other food products.  This program was a best practice where label details are approved and checked to make sure everything is accurate thereby allowing consumers to make safe decisions.  Cancellation of this program will convert this proactive practice to a reactive one in which inspectors try to clean up the mess once problems are found on the grocery shelves instead of before the product reaches consumers.

Minister Ritz

Topic

CFIA internal staff briefing

“There will be no changes in frontline inspectors.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Cuts to frontline inspectors
“I don’t know how you take 10% of your budget and not deal with the front line.”
“…no way would we ever compromise food safety.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

“programming is not being affected.”

The Hill Times – April 23, 2012

Food safety
“The second element of this is pre-clearance for imported meat. In a similar kind of way we do it for meat and not for anybody else. And the question is once again why would you do it for meat and not for anybody else?”
The CFIA “will continue to do spot checks on the shelves after the fact and make sure that the audits follow through, that the labels are factual that they have the information consumers need”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Consumer protection
“…a full scale review of our labeling program writ large across the Agency (is underway). And, what that’s going to result in, in the same way as inspection modernization, in legislative and regulatory reform, is it will result in a new labeling program. The nature and structure of that labeling program, I have no idea.”
“…when it comes to meat, labels are still pre-approved, they’re still checked before anything hits the shelf.”

CBC Radio The House – April 14, 2012

Pre-market approval of meat labels
“Is this our responsibility?”

CFIA Executives comment on:

New inspection system

“…there is work underway to re-engineer how we do inspection.  The new inspection model which is being proposed will radically alter the way in which we actually do verification, and compliance and enforcement activities in the inspection space.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a meat group or a fish group or a label group. I don’t think we’re going to have those in the future.  We’re going to have people who do a series of activities.”

“we should look at working with associations.  Having industry take on a role (in enforcement).”

 The impact of budget cuts

“The idea of re-egineering the way we do program advice was going to happen with or without the budget.  What the budget has done is put us in a bit of a box.”

“I mean, the other big issue around this like everything else is we just don’t have sufficient bodies to do everything we’d like to do…”

 

Dedicated border clearance and tracking of imported meat products

Currently, meat imported into Canada is cleared at the border separate from other commodities because this product carries an especially high risk to consumers.  This CFIA unit clears 50, 000 meat import shipments every year.  It also carefully tracks key safety metrics such as compliance rates, nature of safety requirement violation and who the repeat offenders are.

There will be less inspection scrutiny of this high risk imported product and key intelligence that enables tracking of it will likely be lost when this program is cut because of the shortage of resources.

Consumer Protection Review

Widespread violation of consumer protection rules have recently been reported and industry has long pressured government to water down these provisions.  According to CFIA executives, industry pressure and lack of resources are driving this Agency-wide program review.

Consumer protection inspectors work to ensure the accuracy of company claims on product labels, and to verify the accuracy of:

  • product nutrition claims: this is critical safety information for anyone suffering from illnesses like diabetes, heart disease or life threatening allergies (already cancelled).
  • restaurant menu claims (already cancelled).
  • product net weight claims. Unless consumers go around with their own scale they might not be getting what they paid for.

Consumer protection retail inspections of local manufactured and imported food products have already been cancelled.

Pre-market approval of meat labels

Pre-market approval of meat labels was established for this high risk product to avoid the kind of fraudulent and other problematic claims found in other food products.  This program was a best practice where label details are approved and checked to make sure everything is accurate thereby allowing consumers to make safe decisions.  Cancellation of this program will convert this proactive practice to a reactive one in which inspectors try to clean up the mess once problems are found on the grocery shelves instead of before the product reaches consumers.
For Immediate Release
Ottawa, 24 April, 2012

CFIA cuts to food safety programs and plans to overhaul food inspection are being withheld from the public amid conflicting statements from the Minister and his senior executives about the cuts and changes, according to the Agriculture Union – PSAC, which represents federal food inspectors.

While Minister Ritz insists that frontline inspectors will be unaffected by budget cuts, CFIA executives say “I don’t know how you take 10% of your budget and not deal with the front line”.

This contradiction and some details of the cuts and changes emerged during internal staff briefings held last week, where CFIA executives revealed that industry pressure and a shortage of resources at CFIA are driving plans to:

  • Eliminate the special program to pre-clear and track imported meat shipments , a decision that will result in less inspection scrutiny of these high risk imported products.
  • Conduct a full scale review of the Consumer Protection program while suspending delivery of parts of the program involving food labels, restaurant menu and nutrition verification sampling , activities which protect consumers from fraudulent claims and inaccurate product information in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Kill pre-approval of all meat product labels, a proactive program that recognizes the high risk nature of meat.

The announcements directly contradict assurances the Minister gave Canadians only days before about food safety and labelling for meat and other products. Appearing on the CBC Radio program The House on April 14th, Minister Ritz said:

The CFIA “will continue to do spot checks on the shelves after the fact and make sure that the audits follow through, that the labels are factual that they have the information consumers need”, and, “when it comes to meat, labels are still pre-approved, they’re still checked before anything hits the shelf.”

“It appears CFIA executives did not tell the Minster that staff who perform these functions have already been told their jobs and the program will be eliminated. Conflicting statements like these have CFIA employees concerned that very important decisions are being made without the best, or even accurate, information being available for the politicians who are calling the shots,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors’ union.

CFIA staff was also briefed on a new approach that, in the words of the executives, will “radically” alter food inspection. Soon CFIA will unveil a new inspection model that could revisit the mistakes that contributed to the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. The new inspection model would:

  • By design, convert food inspectors to systems inspectors only. This industry self-policing model is, reminiscent of the conditions in place just prior to the listeriosis outbreak when staff shortages and confusion arising from the introduction of a new inspection system – CVS (Compliance Verification System) – were in play
  • Strip commodity expertise as inspectors for programs such as fish and meat are combined into a single class of systems inspectors
  • Hand off a “big role” to Industry associations in enforcement of food safety requirements

“These cuts and changes were planned behind closed doors and without the benefit of public input or the perspective of those who work on the front lines. We will be doing all we can to make sure politicians and the public understand the impact of these cuts and hopefully the government will live up to its promise that food safety will not be compromised,” Kingston said.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

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