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Privatizing Food Inspection Puts Public at Risk: Union


November 5, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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November 5, 2008- The union representing government scientists is calling for an immediate freeze on the privatization of food inspection.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents 55,000 public servants, said Monday that allowing industry to police itself puts people at risk.

"By discarding rules and handing responsibility for safety to the food industry . . . the federal government is playing fast and loose with the health and safety of our families,'' union president Michele Demers said.

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"The ideological blinders that have protected industry self-policing and deregulation from criticism have to be torn off.''
Reports in July, linked to a leaked cabinet memo, suggested the Conservative government was planning to put more responsibility for food inspection in the hands of the companies themselves.

Then, citing a secret Treasury Board of Canada report from May, a public sector union warned in September that the Tories were planning to pull out of meat inspection programs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to save about $3 million.

Demers said this summer's deadly listeriosis outbreak traced to a Maple Leaf Foods processing plant in Toronto is “the tip of the iceberg of the dangers that deregulation has exposed us to.''

The plant was shut down in August after being linked to the outbreak that has killed 20 people across the country and prompted calls for the food inspection system to be revamped.

Demers says federal consumer protection legislation is outdated and needs to be changed to give inspectors the power to recall unsafe products.

She called on the new health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, to revive proposed legislation to toughen product safety laws. The bill died when Parliament was dissolved in September.

The union is also demanding an independent judicial inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak.