Public Values

Changes to meat inspection put Canadian food chain at risk

Private vets unqualified in slaughter operations, susceptible to conflicts of interest.

Corbett: Why would the Conservatives risk downgrading safety of food on Canadian tables in this way?OTTAWA, ON, May 16, 2012: Regulatory changes to the meat inspection process, which are slated for approval, raise concerns about the safety of products consumed by Canadians and exported to other markets. The changes are being put forward at the same time as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) faces a budget cut of $56 million and the loss of veterinarians and food inspectors.

"With these changes there is a greater risk that diseased animals will enter the food chain without timely examination by independent government professionals who are specifically trained for this job," says Gary Corbett, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents 600 federal government veterinarians working at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). "Why would the federal government risk downgrading the safety of the food on Canadians' tables in this way?"

  "There is certainly no public interest rationale for this change."

Changes to the Meat Inspection Regulations introduced last month will allow private veterinary practitioners to certify animals to be slaughtered, then bled on the farm and shipped (without refrigeration) to slaughter plants up to two hours away for processing into meat for sale to Canadians and consumers around the world.

Private veterinarians do not have the months of specialized training in slaughter operations and food safety that their federal government counterparts receive. In addition, these private veterinarians could be perceived to be in a conflict of interest situation, since they will be paid by the same farmer who may want to salvage an animal that has been found unfit for transport.

While the animals impacted by this regulatory change represent a small percentage of Canadian livestock, it could place the industry at enormous risk. Some diseases veterinarians monitor livestock for are readily identifiable before the animal is killed, but show no signs after they are killed.

CFIA veterinarians who are on the frontline enforcing the Meat Inspection and Health of Animals Regulations were not consulted about this regulatory change.

"There is certainly no public interest rationale for this change. Our current regulations protect Canadians' health and our important export markets from diseases such as rabies, scrapie and mad cow or poisoning by lead and other toxins," adds Corbett. "Canadians expect their government to ensure that their meat comes from healthy animals."

Links and sources
  Meat inspection change risks diseased animals entering food chain: veterinarians union

Posted: May 24, 2012

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