Public Values

Recall of common food additive reveals government failures on food safety

Contaminated protein was distributed for six weeks after contamination was detected

Budget did nothing to improve our ability to prevent outbreaks of illness - Malcolm Alllen, MP.OTTAWA – The rapidly-growing recall of foods containing contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) highlights dangerous gaps in Canada's food safety system which were ignored in the recent federal budget, says New Democrat Food Safety Critic Malcolm Allen (Welland).

"Contaminated HVP was distributed for six weeks after the contamination was detected. This shocking delay demonstrates the need for adequate numbers of food inspectors to keep manufacturers honest and keep Canadians safe," says Allen. "Unfortunately, there was nothing in the budget to improve our ability to prevent outbreaks of illness caused by tainted food."

More than 100 food products in the U.S. and nine in Canada have been recalled after a batch of the hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a flavour enhancer, was found to be contaminated with salmonella. The recall could be the largest ever in North American history, including thousands of food products such as potato chips and soup mixes.

"Parents don't know whether the food in their fridges or their children's' lunches is safe and that is completely unacceptable," says Allen.

Following the 2008 outbreak of listeriosis that killed 22 Canadians the government promised to act on every single recommendation made by Special Investigator Sheila Weatherill, including a $75 million investment in Canada's food safety system.

Despite these promises and assurances in the throne speech, no funding was announced in the recent federal budget. Instead, the government actually handed CFIA a budget cut, forcing it to pay for salary and cost-of-living increases within its existing budget.

"The Conservatives have repeatedly promised to fix Canada's food safety system and repeatedly failed to follow through. This recall is yet more evidence that Canadian families cannot count on this government to protect their health."

Posted: March 15, 2010

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