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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Dead Meat

As the listeriosis infection numbers continue to increase as officials trace back through the healthcare system for suspicious illnesses I see that the Tories, too, are doing a little trace back of their own.

What is, in retrospect of course, a most unfortunately bit of timing, the Tories were in the stages of doing some fiddling to the CFIA, including the way meat inspections are done. Documents pertaining to the changes were obtained by the National Post in July, ironically at about the exact same time that Listeria monocytogenes bacterium was being found in samples at the Toronto Maple leaf plant

Ottawa washes hands of food safety; Companies to do own inspections under new plan
July 12, 2008 Canwest News Service

Excerpt: "A government plan to transfer key parts of food inspection to industry so companies can police themselves will put the health of Canadians at risk, according to leading food safety experts who have reviewed the confidential blueprint. The plan, drafted by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and approved by the Treasury Board, details sweeping changes to food inspection. The document, addressed to the president of the agency, details how the inspection of meat and meat products will downgrade agency inspectors to an "oversight role, allowing industry to implement food safety control programs and to manage key risks." "

Some budget changes were already in place as can be seen in Treasury Board estimates of this year (See table 1):

Agency Planned Spending ($ millions) for Food Safety and Public Health
Forecast Spending 2006-2007 - 350.1
Planned Spending 2007-2008 - 331.9
Planned Spending 2008-2009 - 287.5
Planned Spending 2009-2010 - 270.8

Also, the budget for CFIA is definitely planned to drop over the next couple of years in the area of food safety / public health but a lot of it has to do with BSE testing programs and Influenza planning, rather than actual food inspection at meat plants. See: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/rpp/0708/cfia-acia/cfia-acia03-eng.asp

Agency Planned Spending ($ millions) for Food Safety and Public Health
Forecast Spending 2006-2007 - 350.1
Planned Spending 2007-2008 - 331.9
Planned Spending 2008-2009 - 287.5
Planned Spending 2009-2010 - 270.8

Changes in resource levels from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009: The decrease in financial resources of approximately $30.9 million is primarily related to the sunsetting of funding for both Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) ($23.3 million) as it relates to "Specified Risk Materials Removal from Food and Re-Entering Export Markets" and "Ensuring the future of the Canadian Beef Industry", and the Agricultural Policy Framework ($5.3 million).

Changes in resource levels from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010: The decrease in financial resources of approximately $42.9 million is primarily related to the sunsetting of funding for BSE ($16.7 million) as it relates to "Repositioning the Canadian Beef and Cattle Industry" and "Measures to address the BSE Recovery Program by Facilitating the Transition for the Cattle and other Ruminant Industries", and the Organic Agriculture Products Regime ($2.6 million), which was implemented to maintain the credibility of the Canadian organic industry and to achieve an equivalency status to maintain European Union market access. It is also related to the sunsetting of Major Capital resources for Avian and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness ($20.0 million) which were received for 2008-2009 only, and to decreased funding for the Plum Pox Eradication efforts ($2.0 million).


Planned cuts to food scrutiny questioned

Ottawa's proposal to give industry greater responsibility for meat inspection will make future recalls more likely, professor says

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