Food safety compromised by self-management
Proposed overhaul from Harper means more deregulation
by Ish Theilheimer
Source of Article: http://www.publicvalues.ca/ViewArticle.cfm?Ref=00140
OTTAWA, Sept. 4, 08: The kind of deregulation linked to the Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak in August that has killed 13 Canadians so far, could be a sign of what is in store under the Conservatives, says a veteran food inspector.
Bob Kingston says Stephen Harper's promise to overhaul food safety means the health of Canadians will increasingly be in the hands of company Self- Management Systems (SMS), such as the one used at Maple Leaf. Public inspectors will be less informed and involved.
"These guys are hell-bent on doing this kind of stuff," says Bob Kingston, President of the Agrictural local of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "Public opinion is pretty consistently in support of government regulation of the food industry. The problem is that when Harper says the whole system needs to be overhauled, what the public doesn't get is that he's talking about more deregulation.
"Public opinion is on the right track," with a public system inspection, he said. "They're just being duped."
"This is a serious concern," Harper told reporters last week. "That's why I indicated ... that it's necessary to reform and revamp our food and product inspection regimes."
In April, the federal government introduced an SMS-style food inspection system that puts the main onus for inspection on companies, who are required to file a food safety plan and submit reports on their own compliance. Public inspectors now spend most of their time reviewing company reports and very little time in the plants where food is actually processed.
Companies like Maple Leaf pushed hard for the new system, says
The government was also eager to adopt the new system to save money, he says. "It sure keeps the inspectors out of the plant and prevents inspectors from having as much dialogue wth employees. Employees like to talk. They will tell them things you'll never hear any other way."
The Conservatives claim the Maple Leaf food recall is actually a signal that
the new system is working. Health minister Tony Clement told an
"The surveillance system picked up a problem that was occurring and allowed us to respond efficiently and effectively to an emerging public health issue," he said. "This is an example of where our surveillance system worked."
He is hearing similar reports from inspectors across
"It alarms me that many Canadians seem to think the current government would look after their food safety intersts better. This government wants to turn it all over to industry."
In July, a CFIA scientist publicly leaked a cabinet document that outlined a plan to downsize the federal role in food safety. The document, which CFIA employee Luc Pomerleau leaked to the media, called for a shift from a "full-time presence" of veterinarians and inspectors at abattoirs in Canada to an "oversight role" that would allow the meat industry "to implement food safety control programs and to manage key risks." Pomerleau was later fired for leaking it to his union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
individuals, organizations and significant events
Harper Index - Consumers at risk due to cuts to federal science and inspection programs
Public Values Frame
Overhaul - more deregulation / Public accountabilty, safety and protection
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