CANADA: Government cutting 100 food-safety inspectors
OTTAWA — Canada's food-safety inspection force will shrink by as many as 100 inspectors — cuts the workers' union says will have an impact on the safety of food purchased by Canadians.
The union representing food inspectors says the cuts, to be implemented over three years to help save the Canadian Food Inspection Agency $56 million in operating costs by 2014-15, will reverse increases to the inspection force that were put in place in response to the deadly listeriosis outbreak in 2008.
"This decision will make the inspector shortage worse, not better. And because the government has failed to consult its own inspectors, they are cutting food safety blindly with little understanding of the consequences," Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said Wednesday.
Overall, the food-inspection agency will be cutting 308 employees as a result of the cuts announced in the Conservative government's budget, unveiled last month.
This includes veterinarians, who are in charge of inspecting and certifying animals and meat products, as well as members of the agency's scientific and analytic group.
Kingston said the agency is emphasizing that about half of the positions to be cut are from the workforce in Ottawa and will have little impact on food safety. But Kingston said he doesn't buy it, adding the work done by many of them has a direct impact on the safety of food purchased by Canadians.
For example, he cited the Ottawa-based unit responsible for approving meat product labels, which will be dismantled in favour of "downstream enforcement" involving inspectors catching fraudulent claims when products hit stores shelves.