Cuts leave Canadian consumers open to food fraud: union
Bob Kingston, president of agriculture union of Public Service Alliance of Canada, says proactive label inspections are no longer being done. The only exception, he said, would be fat-content checks for ground meat. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Consumers expecting organic products to be free of pesticides and ground beef not to be stuffed with pig should know these foods aren’t necessarily being checked by federal inspectors to verify producers’ claims.
That’s according to the union that represents federal food inspectors, which held a press conference Tuesday to reveal its members have been whittled down to the point where it’ll soon be nearly impossible to tell what’s in the products stores sell.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency already does few proactive retail inspections unless there’s a complaint — and most of those come from competing companies, said Bob Kingston of the Public Service Alliance of Canada agriculture union.
In the CFIA’s 2014 plan, he said, ground meats would now only be checked for fat content. Nutritional value and even the species of the meat wouldn’t be examined.
That means it’ll be up to each consumer to figure out if the red meat inside ground beef really came from a cow.
“(Consumers) can’t know unless we’re checking — and we’re not,” Kingston said.
“They’re not going to know if that beef is part pork.”
PSAC says Ottawa is planning to cut the CFIA’s food safety program by $35 million and 192 food safety positions by 2016-17.
And what used to be an 11-member Metro Vancouver inspection team has been reduced to four people.
“The brunt of the cuts would be in the meat and poultry inspection programs,” said Bob Jackson, regional vice-president at PSAC.
The latest of the cuts came in January, according to the union, when the federal government shut down Metro Vancouver’s consumer protection unit.
These were the people who check labels and, until recently, inspected food product temperatures to ensure they’re at safe levels.
Kingston said there are cases where inspectors identify violations and forward their investigations to the CFIA for prosecution — only nothing’s done.
“There was a case where they built evidence for a year on prosecuting someone who said they had mountain spring water when it was manufactured out of tap water from a warehouse in Burnaby. (CFIA) walked away from that,” Kingston said.
The CFIA did not provide a response by press time Tuesday.