The group argued that the cuts – which were announced in the Candian government’s 29 March budget to transform and improve Canadian Food Inspection (CFIA) delivery – will “make the inspector shortage worse, not better”.
Bob Kingston, president of PSAC, said: “Because the government has failed to consult its own inspectors, they are cutting food safety blindly, with little understanding of the consequences.”
Kingston also criticised the decision to dismantle an Ottawa-based unit responsible for approving meat products labels and adopt ‘downstream enforcement’.
“After these cuts, Canadians can expect more fraudulent meat labels, like we have seen for other products, because CFIA pre-approval of meat product labels will be eliminated,” he said.
The cuts will take Canada’s food inspection staff to the lowest level since the Canadian government hired an additional 70 food inspectors in September 2009, following a Maple Leaf Foods’ listeriosis outbreak, which killed 23 Canadians. However, the CFIA insisted that the budget proposals would have no impact on food safety.
The meat industry has welcomed the proposals set out in the budget. In a statement last month, Canadian Meat Council executive director Jim Laws, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council president Robin Horel and Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada general manager Robert DeValk said: “Our organisations and member companies work in close collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure Canadian consumers enjoy safe and high-quality processed meat and egg products.
“We are pleased that the government has chosen to focus on health and safety, while increasing the responsibility of the food supply chain, including processors and consumers, for monitoring of non-health and safety considerations.”