Canada’s food safety regulator – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) – lacks the inspection resources to ensure food processors and importers are following the rules that protect Canadians from bad food.
In response to the inspection deficit, the Federal Government has given more responsibility to the food industry to police its own safety practices with less direct supervision from government inspectors.
The inspection deficit can be found throughout the Canadian food processing industry, including meat, chicken, fish and egg processing facilities, as well as imported food.
Government inspectors now spend less time on direct, hands-on inspection and more time reviewing reports and test results companies produce themselves. In many cases, the workload of inspectors is so heavy they cannot possibly verify companies are following the safety rules.
Many believe these changes led to the Maple Leaf Foods tragedy that left 23 dead and dozen more ill in the summer of 2008, victims of tainted cold cuts.
While Ottawa has made improvements to food safety and begun to address the chronic shortage of inspectors last year, much of that progress is now threatened as the federal government is set to diminish food inspection standards further and to cut food safety spending and inspection personnel.