Listeria crisis reveals conflict of interest
CFIA's mandate split between managing food safety and industry promotion.
MONTREAL, June 10, 2009 — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency must focus its activities on the protection of Canadians. This is the position on the listeria crisis which Option Consommateurs presented to the Sub-Committee on Food Safety of the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Consumer protection is not an explicit element of the mandate or the mission of the Agency. Officially, its task is to manage food safety and to promote the industry. According to Ms Anu Bose, Head of the Ottawa office of Option Consommateurs, "we believe that these objectives are contradictory and that they place the Agency in a potential conflict of interest. The protection of Canadians must be the priority."
Francois Decary-Gilardeau, an agri-food analyst at Option consommateurs, pointed out that the listeriosis outbreak cost the lives of 22 Canadians: "almost three months passed between the first case and the official recall. The Agency was unable to protect Canadians adequately during the listeria crisis. Its operations do not meet democratic requirements. Food is everyone's business; it is not right that decisions be taken behind closed doors."
Option consommateurs is therefore calling for greater transparency in the operation of the CFIA. Ms Bose said, "if the Agency really wishes to rebuild its credibility with consumers, it must re-examine its structure with a view to openness and transparency. It should draw inspiration from international best practices. In the UK, the regulatory body's motto is 'Putting the consumer first.' In Canada, the priority is unclear."
Option consommateurs is a non-profit association, established in 1983, dedicated to the defence and promotion of consumers' rights. To this end, it is involved in about 30 class actions suits nd follows closely files related to energy, agri-food, financial services and commercial practices.
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Option consommateurs press release, June 10 2009
Posted: June 14, 2009
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