Why are inspectors there? Ottawa wants power to fine meat plants for food-safety problems

The Canadian government is proposing to give itself the power to fine meat-processing plants that break hygiene and other operating rules meant to protect human health.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the regulatory change would restaurant.inspectiongive it another enforcement tool to help protect consumers.

But meat industry representatives and a food safety expert are skeptical. “These proposed new fines demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that Canada’s stringent food safety requirements are being followed,” Lisa Murphy, a CFIA spokeswoman, wrote in an email from Ottawa.

Inspectors already have the power to issue written warnings to companies when problems at meat plants are found. In serious cases, the CFIA can suspend a plant’s licence and shut it down.

The CFIA said the proposed fines range from $2,000 to $15,000 for violations. They could be imposed on a company that was regularly identified for not following food safety rules.

The Canadian Meat Council represents federally inspected meat-packing and processing companies. Spokesman Ron Davidson said such fines are not needed.

“The meat industry does not believe there is a necessity for yet another enforcement tool,” he said.

Davidson wonders why the federal government isn’t seeking to apply such fines to the entire food-processing sector. He suggests Ottawa is larry.the.cable.guy.health.inspectorsingling out the meat industry.

Rick Holley, a University of Manitoba food-safety expert, said issuing fines won’t make the meat-processing sector any safer.

Holley said the main challenge the government needs to grapple with is ensuring that food-safety inspectors are rigorously trained to a uniform standard — and that the training is ongoing.

“I don’t think that this attempt is going to improve the safety of food in Canada by one iota,” Holley said.

“The real issue here is the performance of the inspectors in terms of appropriately identifying where problems are that are of significant health impact and then doing follow up.”