Food Safety First is calling on the Canadian Government to make a commitment to:
Hire 1000 additional inspectors and veterinarians to improve compliance
There are almost 800 federally regulated meat processing facilities scattered across Canada, many processing thousands of animals everyday and/or producing tons of ready-to-eat products like cold cuts. There are also thousands of cheese, produce and other food production facilities, as well as delis and other retail outlets, all of which are potential sources for deadly food-borne bacteria. This territory is far too vast for the 1100 fully qualified food inspectors and 230 meat hygiene veterinarians currently on staff at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). While the problem of food-borne illness is complex, one dimension of the problem is clear: our food inspectors are too few and spread too thinly. For example, the inspector responsible for the Maple Leaf plant which was the source of tainted meat in the latest food-borne bacterial outbreak was also responsible for six other facilities. In order to ensure companies follow food safety regulations we simply need more inspectors.
Place an immediate moratorium on industry self-policing policies
Under the recently implemented Compliance Verification System (CVS) federal meat inspectors now spend only a fraction of their working day directly supervising production lines in Canadian food factories and slaughter facilities. The rest of the time they simply review company generated reports.
The investigation into the causes of the Maple Leaf Foods tragedy found that the CVS is seriously flawed and in need of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”.
The Compliance Verification System, and other industry self-policing plans should be put on hold until such time as the inspection deficit is fixed.
Remove obstacles preventing CFIA inspectors & vets from taking immediate action
CFIA inspectors are discouraged from taking immediate action when serious health problems arise. Instead, they are strongly encouraged to give the offending company a “Corrective Action Request” which states the nature of the problem and gives the company up to 60 days to address it. The theory of immediate action on the part of inspectors becomes more remote because under the “Compliance Verification System” inspectors spend 75% of their time at the plant reviewing company-generated reports and other administrative duties, instead of inspecting facilities.