Reality Check: Government statement about the number of new food inspectors is nonsense

Ottawa (October 3, 2012) – Yesterday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Harper said:

“Mr. Speaker, as soon as the information about the contamination (at XL Foods) first became available on September 4, the agency acted to contain contaminated product, and it has been acting ever since then.

 To be clear, as I just said, the government has added 700 net new inspectors since 2006.”

The implication that 700 net new food inspectors have been added to the ranks of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency since 2006 is false and misleading.

Government spokespeople making this claim neglect to mention that this total includes hundreds whose work has nothing to do with protecting Canadians from unsafe food products.

For example, the total includes 200 inspectors added to the Invasive Alien Species program which is designed to keep harmful organisms out of Canada, not safeguard Canadians from unsafe food products.

Since 2006, not a single new Meat Hygiene/Slaughter program inspector position except to fill vacancies has been added to the CFIA’s ranks.  Meat Hygiene/Slaughter is the CFIA program which oversees production at factories like XL Foods.

One hundred and seventy inspectors have been added to the Process Meat program as a direct result of the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak.

Minister Ritz has stated that there are more inspectors than ever working at XL Foods.  For too long the XL Foods plant has operated with several inspector positions left vacant.  The Minister is simply counting the inspectors that should have been working at XL Foods but haven’t been until recently.

There are so few inspectors working at XL Foods and production is so high (4000 – 5000 cattle per day) that responsibility for ensuring sanitary conditions at the plant has been handed off to the company.

As a result of staffing cuts in the spring, the CFIA will lose 308 positions, many of whom are food inspectors.

Instead of misleading Canadians, the government should be concentrating on ensuring the CFIA has the inspection resources needed to ensure all safety requirements are met in the Canadian food system.

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For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592