Photo: Nick Castonguay/flickr

In September 2012, U.S. food inspectors found E. coli bacteria in a shipment of beef from the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta.

There were 18 confirmed cases of people who became sick from the E. coli linked to that plant.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has highlighted, “To reduce costs, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has given more responsibility to the food industry to police its own safety practices. It asks companies to develop and implement their own risk-control systems, all the while reducing on-site inspections. The result: inspectors spend more time reviewing reports produced by the companies themselves then monitoring the way things are actually running in food plants.” It has also noted, “300 PSAC members working for the CFIA have lost their jobs since the end of March 2012, including 100 food-safety inspectors. …As a result of the cutbacks imposed to date, the number of food-safety inspectors is lower than it was in 2008…”

That XL Foods plant, which used to slaughter up to 40 per cent of Canada’s cattle, is now owned by Brazilian-based JBS Foods.

Today, CTV reports, “Two years after the largest meat recall in Canadian history, contamination and sanitation problems still plagued the Alberta meat-packing plant formerly operated by XL foods. Documents obtained by CTV News through an Access to Information request show that in one instance in 2014, E. coli was found in meat exported to the United States from the Brooks, Alta. plant now owned by JBS Food Canada. Unsafe meat was exported in three other instances, documents show, but the exact problem is blanked out in the report.”

Food safety should be an issue of concern for voters evaluating Harper’s record in the lead-up to the October 19 federal election.

On Thursday May 7, the Council of Canadians will be holding a public forum on the state of our democracy in partnership with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, ACORN Canada, and Unifor. The event will feature Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, PSAC National Capital Region vice-president Larry Rousseau, Unifor president Jerry Dias, ACORN leader Grace Iyabosa and other speakers.

Continuing issues with the safety of beef being exported from Canada should also be a concern for Europeans as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) goes to ratification votes in the European Parliament and likely all EU member state national legislatures in 2016. Under CETA, Canadian beef producers would be able to sell an additional 50,000 tonnes of beef a year — the current quota is 15,000 tonnes.

Photo: Nick Castonguay/flickr

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist, writer and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. He lives in Ottawa on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Algonquin...