Four months before the Maple Leaf outbreak started claiming lives, Canada's food safety agency quietly dropped its rule requiring meat-processing companies to alert the agency about listeria-tainted meat, a Toronto Star/CBC investigation has found.
Twenty people died as a result of the outbreak this past summer, and federal meat inspectors and their union say this rule change likely made the country's listeria outbreak far worse than it had to be.
Before April 1, if a company preparing meat for sale to the public had a positive test showing listeria it "would have had to have been, not only brought to the (federal) inspector's attention, but the inspector would have been involved in overseeing the cleanup," says Bob Kingston, head of the union that represents Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors.
Kingston and four veteran inspectors interviewed for this story fear the change, part of the deregulation of Canada's food safety net, continues to pose a public health threat.
The inspection agency confirmed to the Star/CBC that there is currently no onus on companies to alert inspectors about positive bacterial results. The change came as part of a federal decision to allow companies to write their own food safety plans, with federal approval....Inspectors and their union say the rule changes, part of the new Compliance Verification System at the safety agency, have reduced their role to paper auditors, checking the results of company tests when they visit the plant. Under current rules, the inspectors only review bacterial test results twice a month.
Transport Canada pilots charged with inspecting the safety practices of airline operators said Wednesday that Canada was no longer meeting international aviation standards because the government had transferred responsibility for safety oversight to airlines.
Greg Holbrook, chairman of the federal pilots association, made the assessment when he got behind a call from New Democrats for an investigation into Transport Canada's implementation of its new inspection model called Safety Management System (SMS).
An international first in civil aviation, SMS requires airlines to develop and oversee its own system of safety checks.
Holbrook said Transport Canada inspectors are no longer conducting traditional audits and inspections to make sure airlines are meeting all regulatory requirements, putting Canada offside with the requirements of the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to which Canada has agreed to conform as a contracting state.