For immediate release
28 October, 2019
Ryding-Regency shows Canada’s food safety system is not working
(Ottawa) – The trend to food industry self-policing of safety programs allowed the Ryding-Regency abattoir to pump hundreds of potentially contaminated products onto store shelves for almost one year before action was taken to protect unsuspecting consumers.
“A food safety system that recalls potentially contaminated products long after they have been consumed is a system that is not working,” says Fabian Murphy, President of the Agriculture Union which represents inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Ottawa has given operators like Ryding-Regency wide latitude to police their own food safety requirements and ample opportunity to hide problems from inspectors. The new Safe Food for Canadians regulations do little to address this shortcoming.
CFIA’s current rules permit these companies to sample their own products and hire private laboratories to test them for the presence of potentially deadly bacteria like E. coli. These duties were once performed by independent CFIA inspectors. Operators licenced to export to the United States are supposed to make sure the labs they hire inform CFIA of all test results.
Such is not the case for slaughter facilities producing for Canadian consumers only. These operators are required to supply test results only when inspectors ask to see them and results are not automatically transmitted to CFIA HQ. The onus is on the company to notify CFIA when their testing program shows the presence of bacteria. But what if they don’t?
“In this instance, meat from abattoirs producing for Canadian consumers is subject to lower safety requirements. That has got to change,” Murphy said.
The record shows the Canadian food industry deserves more intense scrutiny. Maple Leaf Foods withheld test results from CFIA that showed the presence of the deadly listeria bacteria in their Bartor Road plant in 2008 that eventually killed 22 Canadians. XL Beef was unable to produce test records in its possession for days following the E. coli outbreak at its massive plant in Brooks, Alberta in 2012.
Ryding-Regency products that made it onto store shelves one year ago are among the hundreds CFIA is recalling today. “Would CFIA have ignored test results showing the presence of E. coliif they had been made aware of this problem twelve months ago?,” Murphy asked.
“Food companies that withhold critical safety information from Canadians have broken the public trust not only for themselves but for the entire industry. Ottawa must step in to safeguard the public because it is clear that the current inspection rules leave Canadians exposed,” Murphy said.
For information: Jim Thompson I firstname.lastname@example.org I 613-447-9592