Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said inspectors were doing their job properly at the Maple Leaf Foods plant.Ritz is missing the point. No one has said that the inspectors were not doing their job as defined by the new rules. The press and the union are questioning the new rules that his department has put in place.
In the past inspectors, inspected the floor, and performed actual tests, such as swabbing for Lysteria, now they only perform one test a year.
The inspectors role has been reduced to reviewing the reports prepared by the factory.
Paul Mayers a spokesperson for the department, tried to defend his department’s new rules for inspection saying that reviewing the procedural reports produced by the company was “just as important as being on the floor of the plant”.Mayers is also missing the point made by the press and the union, if the paperwork says everything is okay, everything is okay. The point is inspectors are no longer inspecting.
Michael McCain, the President of Maple Leaf Foods, also came out yesterday and said that his company deserves to shoulder all of the blame.While that is something that everyone can agree with, it has nothing to do with the fact that the new inspection rules that were in place at the factory no longer required the government inspectors to verify the data that the company produced.
Harper also spoke out in defense of his new rules yesterday saying the responsibility for food safety must be shared by industry and government and that there is no system in the world where every product is inspected all the time.However with the new rules only requiring the inspectors to perform one test a year, Harper's government is not sharing the responsibility for food safety with the industry they are turning the responsibility over the industry.
When the Tories first approved the new rules back in November, the main focus was the slaughtering side of meat production, ending the funding to producers to test cattle for BSE (mad cow disease) and downgrading agency inspectors to an oversight role.
However as Michael Hansen a US senior scientist and leading BSE authority, said when the new rules were finally leaked.And now with 15 deaths, that is the point.
"Canada is moving towards the U.S. model, where the inspectors don't actually do the inspection, they just oversee and the companies actually do the inspection. That's a really dangerous thing."
References: CTV here, Harper's comment from the Globe here and the National Post here.