Canadians don't trust food firm safety: Poll

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Many will believe government more than businesses


By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News ServiceMay 19, 2009


Most Canadians don't trust industry to ensure the food they consume is safe and want the government to be more hands-on in policing food companies, according to results of a national survey.

The survey of 1,001 Canadians determined that only 13.7% put their faith in food companies compared to 72.4% who identified government food inspectors and scientists when asked which player they trust most to ensure the food they buy at the grocery store is safe to consume.

And while 70% say government should be more proactive in policing food companies and invest more resources to do that, only 21.9% believe government should rely more on companies to police their own safety processes.

The survey also found that only 12.4% of Canadians have a high level of trust in food companies to assess themselves when it comes to compliance with safety rules.

Conversely, 50.3% said they hold industry in very low regard, either not trusting companies at all (23%) or having low trust (27.3%); 33% were neutral, scoring three on a five-point scale.

Nanos Research conducted the survey on behalf of the Agriculture Union, a wing of the Public Service Alliance of Canada representing government meat inspectors.

Neither side fared well when Canadians were asked specifically how best to describe last summer's deadly listeriosis outbreak after contaminated meat produced at a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto made its way to the marketplace, resulting in the deaths of 22 people.

Nearly 65% of Canadians said incidents such as the listeriosis outbreak are avoidable, either because the government "turned over critical inspection duties to industry" (25.7%) or businesses "cut food-safety corners to save money" (37.9%).

Fewer than three in 10 (27.3%) believe these incidents "are simply unfortunate and unavoidable accidents."

"It's telling government that people expect the government to take a positive role in this area, and not just simply say that it's up to the companies," said Bob Kingston, head of the Agriculture Union.




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