Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ritz should be fired, part III

August 27, 2008, a.m., federal meat inspectors go public with information that they are no longer inspecting meat on the floor in processing plants due to federal government regulatory changes:
Federal inspectors are spending less time on the factory floor and relying more on food producers to monitor themselves, the head of the union for federal food safety inspectors said Wednesday.

Since March 31, food producers have been conducting their own tests for bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, and writing their own food safety reports, Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told the CBC's Susan Bonner.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors have since had to deal with significantly more paperwork, which reduces their awareness of the everyday goings-on at meat-packing and processing facilities, said Kingston, formerly an inspector with the CFIA.

"The biggest concern from the [CFIA] inspection staff is simply the amount of time now they spend looking at reports and generating reports," said Kingston.

"And all of that means time off of the production floor."
August 27, 2008, p.m., Minister Ritz denies the above report:
Ritz, responding to critics on Wednesday, had categorically rejected claims that inspectors weren't speeding enough time on the production floor.

"We are saying that's not true," he declared. "About 50 per cent of an inspector's time is spent on the floor of the plant, the other 50 per cent is overseeing paperwork, most of it scientific in nature."
See also Globe report from August 27, 2008 in which Ritz denies the meat inspectors' claims.

August 28th, 2008, federal government backs off from Minister Ritz's 50/50 claim:
The federal government is backing away from previous assurances that its health inspectors spend at least half their time doing on-site physical inspections at meat processing plants across the country.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made the claim this week, in the face of a deadly listeriosis outbreak linked to a Maple Leaf Foods processing plant in Toronto.

But under a deluge of criticism from the meat inspectors union, federal officials now say there's a difference between the "design" of the inspection system and the daily reality of its operation.
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