Last November the Canadian government instituted a
strategic review of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
(CFIA). Among its outcomes was to transfer inspection duties
for ready-to-eat meats from the government inspectors to the
meat industry. Cabinet decided to “shift from full-time CFIA
meat inspection presence to an oversight role, [thereby] allowing
industry to implement food safety control programs
and to manage key risks.”1
In practice, the new policy meant that CFIA inspectors
would rarely enter meat plants to test for bacteria and testing
was left mostly to companies. Self-inspection came largely to
substitute for, and not just to supplement, government inspection.
Government policy errors helped bring about this epidemic.Yet surprisingly, government has taken no remedial
steps beyond issuing a food recall.
The listeriosis epidemic is a timely reminder that the
Harper government has reversed much of the progress that
previous governments made on governing for public health.
And listeriosis may be the least of it. The same November
2007 Cabinet decision that handed self-inspection to the
owners of meat plants did the same for operators of animal
feed mills and cut back the avian influenza preparedness program.
Overall, it would seem that,
as a country, Canada is far less prepared now for epidemics
than in the past.
I know minor electrical problems on a campaign plane is a very relevant story, but I'm willing to bet Canadians would rather see a story or two on FOOD SAFETY, what with people dying and such. Harper calls for an investigation, and all is forgotten, despite what EXPERTS say, despite the fact that their approach to food safety speaks to a core election issue, a core philosophy. When those in the know, say the government is culpable, I think people need to understand, I'm weird that way.