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Twice as many processed meat inspectors needed, union says.

Research presented to parliamentary committee shows too few inspectors to do the job.

Bob Kingston told a parliamentary committee Canada needs more inspectors on the floorOTTAWA May 27, 2009 — Canada's deadly listeriosis outbreak last year might have been prevented with more food inspectors, says the union that represents them across the country.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) says inspectors are too thinly stretched to keep the food supply safe.

Bob Kingston, president of PSAC's agriculture section, told a parliamentary committee inspectors do not have time to go out onto the floor of meat processing plants to check for organic debris on machinery.

The number of inspectors devoted to monitoring processed meat plants would have to double to 400 from the current 200 to do a proper job, he said, noting that more inspectors would cause employees to do their work more conscientiously.

"It affects the behaviour of the plant employees in a very positive way... It's like driving down the freeway with a cop in your rear-view mirror. You're probably a lot more likely to obey the speed limit," he said.

Kingston tabled a document showing that inspectors are responsible for an average of four or five plants and thus lack the time required to do all the tasks they are supposed to perform. He recommended that each inspector be assigned responsibility for no more than two plants where ready-to-eat meats are produced.

The government says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has hired more staff since 21 people died following an outbreak of listeriosis last summer at a Maple Leaf Food plant in Toronto.

The union says most of the new people have been assigned to tasks other than front-line meat inspection. It has also complained that figures cited by the agency often don't take into account the number of inspectors who are off-duty at any given time.

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  More staff might have prevented listeriosis outbreak, by NUPGE, May 27 2009

Posted: May 28, 2009

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