Maybe I’m cynical about the whole thing, but I don’t see overworked meat inspectors being the most important factor leading to the Maple Leaf/Listeria outbreak. I don’t know what more inspectors would have done about Listeria living deep inside a slicer.
Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union representing food inspectors through the Public Service Alliance of Canada thinks the lack of inspectors and resources is exactly what the problem was — and he’s trumpeting that opinion again today.
In an article about the lack of progress of a promised government inquiry of the outbreak Kingston says changes proposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency include more stringent oversight, more reporting and more rigorous testing.
"They sort of put all the right pieces in place except for one thing: they haven’t been given any resources to do it. With all the government’s talk about how well resourced the agency was, and how they were going to make sure that whatever needed to be done was done, they haven’t come up with a single penny yet."
The union is calling for 1,000 more inspectors and veterinarians across the entire food-safety system. At least 200 more are needed for processed-meat inspection alone, Kingston says.
"If you talk to the average inspector out there, they figure they’ve probably got about twice as many plants as they feel comfortable with."
So what will these extra inspectors do, and how are they going to help companies like Maple Leaf implement the culture of food safety we hear so much about? Regulators need to evolve and do a better job helping folks from farm-to-fork to develop a food safety culture, and verify that their steps reduce risk are being implemented.
The best part of the article was related to the political dancing-with-stars mess around this magical inquiry:
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s office deferred questions about the delay to the Prime Minister’s Office.
"An announcement will be made in due course," said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas.