of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/news/beyond_stories.asp?ArticleID=102908
Canadian inspectors are overworked, under-trained and under-staffed,
union and industry agree
(MEATPOULTRY.com, May 29, 2009)
by Steve Bjerklie
inspectors are overworked, under-trained and understaffed, risking the
safety of meat products and the integrity of the Canadian meat inspection
That’s the claim of
the agricultural union within the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which
represents Canadian federal meat inspectors. "Recent changes have
simply made their jobs impossible," Bob Kingston, president of the
agricultural union, told MEATPOULTRY.com. He said changes, "which
basically regimented the inspection system with lots more
documentation," came at two times, first in 2007 and then in 2008. The
latter changes in inspection procedures, called the Compliance Verification
System, a refinement of Canada’s HACCP program which requires inspectors to
do more swab testing for pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and to
make step-by-step audits, increased inspector workloads about 10 percent.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not match the increased workload
with an increase in the number of inspectors, he said.
won’t hamper production in meat plants, but they could compromise food
safety due to overworked inspectors," he stated.
Jim Laws, executive
director of the Canadian Meat Council, agrees there’s a problem. "CFIA
needs to do a much better job training inspectors," he told
MEATPOULTRY.com. "It’s clear to our members that inspectors are not
well enough trained in aseptic testing." He added: "They could’ve
done a better job, too, rolling out the April ’08 changes." He said
that the Maple Leaf Foods recall last summer, caused by products
contaminated with Listeria and one of the largest food recalls in Canadian
history, "does make one wonder if the agency had the right
allocations" of inspector resources.
According to union
figures, there are 25.5 inspectors covering 98 processing plants and 19
cold storage facilities in the Toronto region alone. In Montreal, 33.75
inspectors cover 138 processing plants and 22 cold storage operations. Out
west in Vancouver, 6.75 inspectors visit 20 plants and 20 cold storage
A report on inspection
resource allocations and inspector workloads is due to be given to Prime
Minister Stephen Harper in July. A second report may be issued later in the
summer by a committee in Parliament that’s investigating the issue,
"although that one may get tied up by politics," Kingston noted.
The union hopes either
or both reports will recommend more resources be given to CFIA for training
and staffing. The union president said that his organization has no
argument with the changes themselves – "they’re pointed in the right
direction" – just with their implementation. "The inspectors need
more resources to verify what they’re being asked to verify. Even the
industry says they’ve got a daunting task," he said.
in 2009 is a lot different than it was 20 years ago," said Laws.
"The technology, the science – it’s much more complex. Processing
plants are so much more complex too, and things are not at all the same
from plant to plant. Inspectors need to be properly trained to handle these