CANADA: Minister muddling impact of food-inspection cuts, union warns
Posted: April 24th, 2012 - 6:35pm
Source: Globe and Mail
The union representing federal food inspectors says it’s hearing two very different explanations of what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is cutting: one version from the minister and a very different version from senior CFIA managers.
Among the issues affecting food safety is the continuing lack of clarity over federal government plans to change the monitoring of food labels. A line in the March 29 budget said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would be launching a “web-based label verification tool that encourages consumers to bring validated concerns directly to companies and associations for resolutions.”
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who is responsible for CFIA, has said inspectors would continue to do spot checks on store shelves. But Bob Kingston, the president of the Agriculture Union, says senior CFIA officials recently told staff the labelling program is now under a “full scale review” and the final outcome is not clear.
Mr. Kingston said briefings from senior CFIA staff have also contradicted the minister’s claims that there will be no changes in frontline inspectors.
The union says CFIC vice-president Stephen Baker told staff last week during town hall meetings that the agency is moving toward a new inspection model that “will radically alter” its current way of conducting inspections. Mr. Baker allegedly told staff the new model would see the CFIA move away from having inspectors specialize in specific commodities, such as fish or meat and that industry would not on a larger role in enforcing safety rules (that’s what the original story said – like the pronouncements, it doesn’t make sense either – dp).