“The dean of Canadian food and farm reporting, Jim Romahn, has written a powerful piece about the continuing failures in Canadian meat inspection – failures that had to be pointed out by Americans.
More than a year after 21 people died after eating Maple Leaf Foods Inc. products contaminated with Listeria monocytoges, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was failing to enforce its own standards and there was sloppy follow-up when hazardous conditions were identified.
Those worrisome facts are contained in a report prepared by two U.S. inspectors who visited in the fall of 2009 to check Canada’s compliance with its own standards. They visited headquarters in Ottawa, 23 meat-processing plants and two labs.
They found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency generally has good manuals and intentions, but falls short at the plant level, including failures to identify lax sanitation and to enforce its standards.
Thirty years ago, when Canadian reporters began to obtain U.S. inspection reports on our packing plants, all of the deficiencies identified applied to specific problems and individual plants. This audit has identified similar deficiencies at the plant level, but far more serious, it found deficiencies in the overall system.
Had the U.S. inspectors not checked it’s likely that the deficiencies would have persisted, putting Canadian consumers at risk and the meat industry under threat of losing export markets.
The report also indicates some of the systemic deficiencies were identified during previous annual audits, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency promised to fix them, but they persisted. This is after the Maple Leaf crisis and frequent promises by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Prime Minister Stephen Harper that corrective action would be taken as swiftly as possible.
They have never talked about the U.S. audit reports that highlighted things that needed attention….”