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Food Safety A Priority

When Parliament resumes next mo n t h , t h e Harper government should make introduction of long-promised food safety improvements a priority, says a food industry coalition.

The Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition, which represents farm, food industry and consumer groups, wants the government to start consulting now.

Many factors need to be considered in legislation the government has reportedly been working on for several months, the coalition says in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Among them are the recommendations from Sheila Weatherill arising from her investigation of the government’s handling of the deadly 2008 listeria outbreak that killed 22 people and sickened scores more. As well, the House of Commons food safety subcommittee and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and other federal agencies have recommended ways to beef up food safety.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the government will enact all the Weatherill recommendat ions and inject an additional $75 million into food safety activities during the next three years. The CFIA is steadily adding more inspectors to its ranks.

In early 2008, the government introduced legislation that would have given CFIA more power to seize imports and force recalls. However, the bill wasn’t pushed ahead by the government. It died when the parliamentary session ended in early 2009 and wasn’t reintroduced.

The safety coalition says food safety remains a primary concern of the public and the agri-food industry. A new round of consultations between the ministers of Health and Agriculture and the agri-food industry, amongst other stakeholders, would be timely and relevant to shaping the anticipated legislation.

The expected passage of major reforms to food safety legislation in the United States will significantly change the regulatory environment in our continental food market,” the coalition says. “Canada should be following the proposals in Congress and be prepared to adjust to them.”

The coalition has members from agriculture groups to the food-processing and distribution sectors. It says food safety is a shared responsibility between government and industry. There should be a national approach to food safety policy and regulation based on sound science and international standards such as HACCP.

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