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Panel Of Experts To Keep Eye On CFIA

The man who helped create the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the 1990s has been asked to ensure it is doing its job.

Ron Doering, who also served as the agency’s president for four years, will head what’s called a “ministerial advisory board.” He will be joined by six other experts who will advise Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on food safety and other issues related to the CFIA’s mandate.

“Today’s announcement is one more way we are improving an already world-recognized food safety system,” Ritz told the Commons agriculture committee. “This highly qualified and diverse advisory board builds upon our government’s increased investments, hiring of more inspectors, and enhanced listeria testing.”

The board is called for in CFIA legislation but was allowed to lapse in 2000. Repeated calls to set it up again have been ignored, but in her report on the deadly 2008 listeria outbreak, special investigator Sheila Weatherill also recommended its reconstitution.

The board “will be a vital external source that will advise on how to further strengthen our food safety system,” said Ritz. “Our government will continue to work towards fulfilling all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill Report.”

Doering told the committee the government is working on ensuring it has sufficient meat inspectors to check all the plants in Canada. He said a recent examination of CFIA’s inspection capacity didn’t find any smoking guns.

“We’re putting more inspectors on the front lines and boosting our capacity,” he said.

The other board members are former University of Manitoba agriculture dean Harold Bjarnason, Saskatchewan veterinarian David Chalack, Rob McLaughlin, formerly of the University of Guelph and now a consultant, former Nova Scotia agriculture minister Brooke Taylor, retired research scientist Keith Downey, and Marcel Groleau, a Quebec dairy farmer and an executive member of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Brian Evans, the government’s chief food safety officer, will assist the board.

The CFIA enforces 13 federal acts and is responsible for safeguarding Canada’s food supply, monitoring animal health and protecting plants.

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