This is how useless single food inspection agencies can be
Posted: May 28th, 2009 - 7:58am by Doug Powell
When to go public remains a difficult question for public health types, but us mere mortals were offered a glimpse yesterday.
"To wait until one has evidence beyond doubt . . . is often too late to protect the public," McKeown said.
In front of a parliamentary subcommittee Wednesday, the medical health officers for Ontario and the City of Toronto chastised the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for its handling of last summer's listeriosis outbreak.
"This was a national outbreak, but it wasn't clear that the national public health dofficer had a mandate for leadership at the federal level," Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, told the committee.
Williams, along with Dr. David McKeown, Toronto Public Health medical officer, testified at a special parliamentary probing the state of food safety in Canada.
The committee was called after people consumed contaminated meat last summer from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto, resulting in the death of 22 Canadians.
That death toll was exacerbated by "a lack of effective communication" among health agencies, Williams said, along with what the health officers suggest are differences in reporting procedures between the federal health authorities, and their local and provincial counterparts.
Public health officials should act when there are "reasonable and probable grounds to believe food products poses a health hazard," McKeown explained, adding this "standard" is included in Ontario's public health legislation. But the CFIA generally waited for "conclusive evidence" a specific product is responsible for documented human illness before taking action, he said.
So, all these people died, the president of Maple Leaf thinks he's a food safety hero cause he's learned so much about listeria, and the food safety types at various levels are still talking bullshit.
The locals were left hanging by the omnipotence of the single food inspection agency.