Dec. 12, 2008 – Ontario needs to be more vigilant about food safety violations at meat and dairy plants, many of which have been flagged for potential problems, the province’s auditor general warned in a report early last month.
Ontario needs to be more vigilant about food safety violations at meat and dairy plants, many of which have been flagged for potential problems, the province’s auditor general warned in a report early last month.
The government isn’t doing enough to check up on provincially regulated slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants that were cited for major sanitation violations, Auditor General Jim McCarter wrote in his annual report.
The province has also renewed licences for some dairy plants and milk distributors before an inspection was even completed or received, his report found.
“Consumers in Ontario would have a higher level of comfort if the deficiencies that we pointed out in our audit were corrected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food,’’ he said after releasing his report.
“It would lessen the risk.”
About half of all provincially regulated abattoirs and free-standing meat processors didn’t comply with at least 10 per cent of the provincial standards, the report said.
Some plants were in violation of more than 30 per cent of the standards, many of which were repeat violations, it found.
Inspectors were finding the same “major and serious” violations year after year, with no followup to make sure they were being corrected, McCarter said.
At the same time, plants with fewer violations were being inspected more frequently than those with 40 to 60 violations, he noted.
The province is also dragging its feet when it comes to inspecting meat processors, McCarter suggested.
Three years after promising to inspect all free-standing meat processors, the province has only completed licensing inspections for 80 of the 290 facilities, he said.
“Our point was, `It’s been three years, why didn’t you get in there and do the licensing inspection and rate these plants?’’’ he said.
Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky said the province has already taken action on some of McCarter’s recommendations.
She noted that Ontario now has 170 inspectors, up from 10 when the Liberals took office in 2003.
“We really are plowing new ground here,’’ she said.
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