Canadian Association of Journalists still exists, says CFIA wins secrecy award

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has won the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence Award for 2008 for its dizzying efforts to stop the public from learning details of fatal failures in food safety.

"The judges were sick with awe at the intestinal fortitude the Canadian Food Inspection Agency gatekeepers have shown," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "It was clear that the CFIA’s guard dogs found something they can really sink their teeth into."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has delayed and extended, ad nauseam, requests related to the Listeria outbreak that killed 22 Canadians and triggered hundreds – perhaps thousands – of illnesses.

Requests filed for inspections records on the Toronto-area Maple Leaf plant at the centre of the outbreak took nine months to produce and communication records with the company are still embroiled in delays.

For one of the biggest public health issues to face Canada in recent years, details behind the cause of the outbreak, the apparent delay in warning Canadians and the agency’s handling of the aftermath remain filled with unanswered questions.

The ignominious Code of Silence Award, handed out Saturday night at the CAJ’s investigative journalism awards banquet, dishonours the country’s most secretive government, department or agency.