Meat industry singled out for new penalties

The Canadian meat industry was surprised by an out-of-the-blue announcement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that it is being singled out for a financial penalty regime for food safety infractions.

Jim Laws, president of the Canadian Meat Council, says the agency had said the administrative monetary penalty system (AMPs) would be introduced to the entire food industry at the same time after consultations on its implementation and operations. AMPs are used in other sectors regulated by government to impose penalties on businesses and consumers when the government wants to avoid the expense of taking people to court.

“So we’re surprised that the CFIA has moved more quickly to implement this system on us,” Laws said. His group has fully participated in consultations with CFIA on a new regulatory regime to implement the provisions of C52, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, passed earlier this year by Parliament. “We’re looking forward to discussing with government on how the system will be applied to us. We want a fair and efficient administrative monetary penalty system for meat products.”

Laws said the move is especially frustrating for the industry because it has been waiting for years for the government to implement changes in agreed-to meat container labelling regulations.

The new food safety law included a clause that enabled the government to bring in an AMPs program for processors of all food categories.

“Consumers want a strong and reliable food inspection system on which they can depend to provide safe food. Introducing these new penalties demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that Canada’s stringent food safety requirements are being followed,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in announcing the change.

She said the AMPs could provide CFIA inspectors “with an additional enforcement option when working with the meat industry. For example, they may be applied if a company withholds information, such as a positive E. coli test result, or records that are needed as part of a food safety investigation, or if a company is regularly identified for not complying with requirements.”

Martine Dubuc, chief food safety officer and CFIA vice-president, said AMPs “provide an additional option for dealing with the small number of food producers that fail to follow federal food safety regulations.”

The government is planning to have the new food safety act come into effect in 2015. It has yet to put any of its proposed regulations into the Canada Gazette, which gives them official status.

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