A game of roulette?
Friday, 20 January 2012
Lethbridge Herald Opinon
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's plans to cut its budget and trim staff has raised concerns about what that will mean to Canada's food safety system.
The federal meat inspectors' union warns the cuts could put Canadians' safety at risk.
"Make no mistake that food safety costs money, but less safety can cost a lot more, but in terms of money and human suffering," the union's head, Bob Kingston, said Monday at a news conference in Ottawa.
According to the CFIA's 2011-12 spending plan, the agency is proposing to trim its budget by $21.5 million and reduce staff by more than 230 positions. It stands to reason that if you cut that many people from an agency whose role is to safeguard the food Canadians consume, something has to give. If there are fewer people keeping tabs on food safety, there's a greater likelihood something will be missed.
Essentially, the federal government is eliminating the food safety funding that was added following the 2008 listeriosis crisis, says Kingston. That outbreak, linked to a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto, killed 23 Canadians.
The federal government says Canadians have nothing to worry about. The safety of the food supply won't be affected. Really? How can it not be affected to some degree by staff reductions that deep?
"Cuts of this magnitude would leave the food safety program reeling and severely diminish an inspector's ability to complete assignments, and that means risk of another major food-borne illness outbreak will be elevated," Kingston said Monday.
An elevated risk of food-borne illness means an elevated risk for Canadians. One of the people who attended Monday's news conference in Ottawa was Karen Clark, whose mother was one of those who died in the 2008 listeriosis outbreak.
"Something terrible happened to me and my family," said Clark. "We're not special. If the federal government does not maintain adequate safety oversight and inspection it could happen again to anyone's family."
Kingston said the government is playing Russian roulette with Canadians' lives. It's a dangerous game to be playing.
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