Food inspection cuts prompt safety fears

Canadian Food Inspection Agency to cut 100 jobs

Posted: Apr 12, 2012 12:31 PM ET

Last Updated: Apr 12, 2012 2:37 PM ET

Phil Marchuk owns an import meat inspection facility and says 90 per cent of imported meat goes uninspected.Phil Marchuk owns an import meat inspection facility and says 90 per cent of imported meat goes uninspected. (Jim Cole/Canadian Press)

Budget cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have a local warehouser concerned about food safety. 

The agency is reportedly preparing to cut 100 inspectors.

Phil Marchuk owns Windsor Freezer, an import meat inspection facility for the Canadian government.

He said there are three meat inspectors in the Windsor region.

“They’re hands are already tied,” Marchuk said. “If they don’t have the money to put in the shifts then the product is not being looked at in a timely manner to keep the food chain running down the road safely.”

Marchuk said only one in 10 trucks containing meat shipped from the U.S. and Mexico are inspected before being sold in Canada.

And the local inspectors only work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but can be called in on overtime until 6:30 p.m.

12-hour waits and 90 per cent not inspected

Otherwise, trucks sit and wait for up to 12 hours at a time. And then there are the 90 per cent of the trucks that aren’t inspected at all.

“That’s my biggest fear,” he said of cuts. “You’ve got to think this trucking industry goes 24 hours a day. There is fresh product coming through the border, you think you’d want to keep it moving, not sitting here for 12 hours, waiting for an inspector to come in.”

Canadian inspectors are looking at the quality of product and proper labelling. They make sure the product matches what it’s said to be.

Marchuk said some trucks can be inspected at their eventual destination, usually a location where the meat is further processed.

But Marchuk those inspectors, working inside a processing plant for a giant national or international company may not be of “independent mind.”

U.S. has strict rules

Marchuk also said there are trucks that simply skip inspection. That likely wouldn’t happen in the U.S. and if it does, it’s heavily punished.

“The American government is pretty strict,” Marchuk said. “Every [Canadian] truck that enters is inspected.”

If it’s not, and it ends up at its eventual destination it can be sent back or fined to the tune of three times the value of the product it’s carrying, according to Marchuk.

“The problem is, we have trucks that don’t stop here in Canada,” he said.

CBC contacted the CFIA, but it refused to comment.


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