Loblaw official takes heat over food safety comment

Food inspection | Some day farmers’ markets 
are going to kill someone, says retailer

Farmers’ market advocates wasted no time demanding a retraction after the head of Canada’s largest grocery store chain said produce from farmers’ markets will kill a consumer someday.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. quickly said executive chair Galen Weston was simply calling for more food inspection throughout the system and not singling out farmers’ markets.

But in the days that followed Weston’s controversial statement at 
a Toronto food conference, he re-ceived some significant support.

“They were simply indicating that food inspection as an activity should be happening everywhere and not just at major chains and not just at major manufacturers but also at farmers’ markets,” Public Service Alliance of Canada agriculture union president Bob Kingston told the House of Commons agriculture committee Feb. 15.

“We agree..… It’s preventive. I believe the more inspection, the more preventive measures you’re taking, then the safer it is.”

Earlier, University of Guelph professor Sylvain Charlebois weighed in on Weston’s warning.


“Shocking comments, perhaps, but the fact of the matter is, it may have had already happened,” he wrote.

Consumers can be exposed to pathogens causing illness at any level of the food chain.

“These were evidently strong words coming from the head of Canada’s largest food retailer, but they point out that a broader more rational debate on food safety is warranted in our country,” wrote Charlebois, a former University of Regina professor who is acting dean at the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics.

The furor began Feb. 7 when Weston, during a speech to a Conference Board of Canada conference on food policy, argued that Canada’s food system is strong and a robust inspection regime is key.

“Farmers’ markets are great … but someday they’re going to kill someone,” he said in answer to a question from the audience.


“I’m just saying that to be dramatic, though,” he quickly added.

Robert Chorney, chair of Farmers’ Market Canada, was in the audience and responded in a later session when he had a chance to speak.

“We strenuously object,” he said. “That was awful.”

The association later demanded an apology or retraction from Weston, but the Loblaw chain said that it was a comment on food inspection and not on farmers’ markets.


  • Theresa Nolet

    I find this incredible in view of the fact that the goverment is in the process of cutting food inspection and they allow horse slaughter of animals that are NOT raised for food and are known to have been given drugs banned from entering the human food chainsuch as phenolbutazone, a known carcinogin! Kill buyers are allowed to sell the horses that they purchase at auction by signing a heath record document where it says “to the best of my knowledge” Not worth the paper it is written on! Our government every day puts pregnant women and children in the countries we export horse meat to at risk. It is all about the MONEY!

  • MJ Wilson

    Sounded like he definitely said “Farmer’s Market”! I’d rather buy at a Farmers Market anyday than a chain grocery, geez, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which produce has less handling! Less chance of contamination. Farmers Market wins hands down! Now if Canadian food safety took their jobs seriously, they would close the border to American horses that are being slaughtered in Canada and sold to humans, they’re full of drugs! Horses in America aren’t ever raised for food, we give them lots of drugs NOT ALLOWED in food animals. Our own FDA admits it! So be concerned about American horse meat being eaten in your own country, and the EU! We falsify the paperwork, we have to, we don’t raise horses for food in the US! You’re killing people, two died in France this year, the horse meat was traced back to Canada! Do you job when it comes to US horses and close the border NOW!

  • Aleta Pahl

    Canada better be honest with the carcinogens found in horsemeat. This is a serious threat to humans, especially children and pregnant women. Almost all of the horses shipped across the Canadian border from the USA have been given the muscle relaxer, Bute in their lifetime. This is legal in the US because horses are not a food animal. They are given untold substances like fly repellant and bute that are safe for the horse, but toxic to humans. How does Canadian inspectors justify this to consumers?