Fraud fears as Canadian agency makes food inspection cuts

By Eleanor Mckay

- Last updated on GMT

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Cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has prompted fears of increased food fraud if criminal gangs exploit the resulting lack of inspectors in certain areas.

At present there were no dedicated inspection officers in the Metro area of Vancouver following CFIA cut backs.

According to the Canadian Agriculture Union, the Metro Vancouver area is now the only major metropolitan area in Canada without a dedicated CFIA team. The team has been disbanded as part of the CFIA’s plans to cut back its inspection programme by CA$35m, including 192 food safety positions by 2016/17. The Agriculture Union reported this included fewer ground meat inspections, less checking of fat content, filler and fraudulent species claims.

There are fears that a reduced number of inspectors could result in criminal activity in the food chain: "The CFIA is choosing to ignore blatant examples of misleading or fraudulent product claims. The record shows that consumers need protection from some companies who resort to fraudulent and misleading practices. Rather than dismantling its Consumer Protection Unit, the government should be prosecuting companies that defraud consumers," said Bob Jackson, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) regional vice-president for British Columbia.

Other Canadian cities are also suffering from an inspector shortage. In Ontario, the Fair Labelling Practising Programme, also part of the CFIA consumer protection unit, has been cut by 50%. Moreover, just one inspector is responsible for consumer protection in each retail food outlet in Toronto.

"With fewer inspectors, even this reduced plan to prevent consumer fraud and food safety problems will likely be impossible to complete," added Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union – PSAC, which represents federal food inspectors.

The CFIA have released a statement, saying, "There have been no cuts to food safety. Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world. The CFIA continues to inspect food labels as part of the agency’s regular inspection activities."

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