Canadians want food inspectors

More than 80 percent of Canadians trust federal employees to protect the safety of the food supply, says the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

In an online survey of 1,000 Can-adians in July, Nanos Research determined that 84 percent of respondents have the most faith in government food inspectors and scientists to protect the safety of Canada’s food supply.

Only eight percent of respondents said they “most trust” food company employees to ensure food safety.

PSAC, which commissioned the Nanos poll, said it suggests the public wants vigorous oversight of food production in Canada.

However, PSAC representatives said most slaughter plants in Canada are critically short on meat inspectors.

Plants in Manitoba have less than half the necessary number of federal government inspectors, they said.

“(They) are operating with substantially fewer than the minimum number of meat inspectors required to properly ensure consumer safety,” PSAC agriculture union president Bob Kingston said at a news conference in Winnipeg Aug. 20.

According to PSAC:

  • The Maple Leaf hog processing plant in Brandon should em-ploy 29 meat inspectors per shift. On average, 19 federal inspectors work at the plant.
  • Manitoba’s second largest hog processor, Highlife Foods in Neepawa, should have at least 27 meat inspectors at the plant, Kingston said. PSAC statistics show that 19 inspectors typically work at the Neepawa plant.
  • The Dunn-Rite poultry plant in Manitoba should have seven meat inspectors on site but usually has three, PSAC said.

Kingston said the inspection shortfall at Manitoba slaughter plants is not abnormal.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is in the process of downsizing meat inspection staff right across the country,” he said.

Fifty-five percent of respondents in the Nanos poll said the federal government should cancel the meat inspection cuts and invest more in food safety. Another 28 percent said the government should cancel the cuts.

Federal health minister Rona Ambrose refuted the staff cut claims earlier this year when she told the House of Commons health committee that the CFIA has not cut back on meat inspection.

“There are absolutely no cuts. I understand the president of the union says there are cuts, but the president of the CFIA has said there are no cuts.”

Ron Davidson, the Canadian Meat Council’s director of trade and government relations, said inspectors do not ensure the safety of meat.

“Since bacteria are not visible, food safety cannot be ‘inspected into’ meat…. Food safety is best assured by robust food safety-related equipment, processes and laboratory analyses,” he said in an email.

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