Bill 7 received second reading June 2 and underwent public consultations last week in a last-minute push before summer recess begins at the Legislature.
The Food Safety and Related Amendments Act, which brings several pieces of food safety legislation under one new act, has been scrutinized by farm groups since its introduction last December. Groups like Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and Manitoba Cattle Producers Association (MCPA) have expressed a number of concerns about its implications.
KAP president Ian Wishart repeated KAP’s main concern that there be a clear distinction between what is a farm and what is a food-processing facility.
“We’re concerned that they’ll throw this net too widely,” Wishart said.
“Whether it is a fruit-packing operation or farm direct sales of burgers made from homegrown meat, farmers are growing in their role as rural entrepreneurs and will continue to strive to produce and market their goods in new and innovative ways. MAFRI must take care to ensure that the regulations they develop do not hinder these emerging rural enterprises,” the KAP brief states.
KAP was granted changes to three specific clauses in Bill 7, pertaining to inspections, reviews of inspection orders and information provisions. KAP asked that a farmer be protected against legal action if they voluntarily disclose or report a food safety hazard, and that more time – 14 days instead of seven – be allowed to respond to inspection orders. KAP also asked for a clause change so that an inspector must provide a receipt for any information removed from premises.
Wishart said he felt KAP’s concerns were heard. There was also a commitment from the minister to consult further when setting regulation.
David Wiens, chair of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba board, said dairy farmers need clarification before existing food safety regulation for the industry rolled into this new act. For example, it must be made clear that it is a processor’s responsibility to wash milk trucks’ interiors and exteriors. Earlier this year, that service was suspended because the regulation didn’t spell out who should do it, Wiens said. “We don’t want to run into a situation again where the processors can arbitrarily stop this service and there’s nothing really that can be done about it.”
Dairy farmers support Bill 7 but don’t want to see these specific regulatory issues “getting lost in the shuffle,” Wiens said.
Spokespersons for other groups including the Manitoba Food Processors Association, Beyond Factory Farming and the Manitoba Women’s Institute also spoke at the consultations.