Are cuts to the federal food inspection services impacting food safety in Canada?
Was the recent recall of meat with E. coli due to changes in inspection processes and/or staffing?
What we do know is that the E. coli tainted Canadian meat products were discovered by U.S. inspectors, not Canadian inspectors. And the U.S. food safety inspection service tested the beef two weeks before Canadian agencies even acted. This should, we believe, raise several red flags.
When the federal government decided to build a very lean budget, Stephen Harper also decided to leave out all those pesky details about exactly what was being cut and by how much. The budget, according to media reports, called for the elimination of 19,000 federal jobs over three years. Also, according to media reports, the cuts would affect everything from food inspections to transportation safety. But the federal government has not released details about those cuts. So, we, like many other folks in B.C., have no idea whether cuts may be directly impacting the safety of our food supply or our water supply.
However, the union representing the largest number of federal employees does have an idea.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada believes that Canada's food inspection agency is being weakened through cuts and a move to have meat companies do more self-policing. And it is raising concerns about the trend. As it should.
Certainly, PSAC has a vested interest, given that its members are losing jobs, but it doesn't take a PhD in agriculture to come to the conclusion that fewer inspections and regulations with more food production could add up to more tainted food issues.
So far, no one has died from this E. coli meat, but what about the next batch? Fewer inspections will surely mean a potential for more chances of contamination. Will it take something like a Walkerton tragedy to get the government to rethink its cuts?