For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.abacus chart.001

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

Bob Kingston, President

Agriculture Union – PSAC

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Edmonton, AB

Please check against delivery

Good morning and thanks for coming out.

My name is Bob Kingston and I am the national president of the Agriculture Union. We represent food inspectors who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I am on leave from the CFIA where I worked for 25 years as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

On March 31st last year, we revealed that the shortage of meat inspectors in Northern Alberta was so acute that critical inspection tasks were thrown out the window.

One year later, almost to the day, the team of meat inspectors working here remains short staffed by 33%.

Today, the inspector shortage is Canada-wide.

We are here this morning to make public a survey of food inspectors that will give you a glimpse of the food safety system from the front lines where my members work.

The survey findings represent a perspective that the leadership of the CFIA rarely sees and never talks about.

CFIA’s message is that all is well. They say there have been no cuts. They produce numbers to show there are more than enough inspectors. But they are reporting positions even if those positions are vacant with no inspectors doing those jobs.

It’s a completely different story on the front lines.

The survey was done by Abacus Data which collected the views of 580 CFIA staff. The findings tell quite a different and troubling story than the one you may be familiar with from the Agency.

First, more than half of those who replied to the survey say they do not have enough inspectors in their immediate work area to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

In other words, the system that is supposed to keep the food supply safe is not being fully implemented as designed because there are not enough inspectors to do the job..

Cracks start to open in the system. Where inspectors once checked to make sure food processing plants are clean everyday, all of a sudden inspectors are on site checking only three times a week. It means inspectors investigate fraudulent claims made by restaurants only after a complaint has been received. It means that the safe and humane handling of animals rarely happens.

The food safety system is already bare bones. It’s working at minimum levels with no slack built in. Going below these minimums exposes consumers to uncharted risk, and that should be a concern.

As should this finding: one-in-four inspectors have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks.

Most survey respondents believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

It is sobering that the people who are charged with preventing outbreaks so widely believe that the next one is on the near horizon.

I want to point out that these findings are more intensely held among inspectors in the meat hygiene program, which handles products that can pose high food safety risk when not handled properly.

I am not surprised given this finding:

Only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants.

More than half report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

Daily presence in meat processing plants is a safety must. It is a safety requirement for very good reasons. Daily presence is all about preventing problems before they occur.

Now is a particularly bad time for these kinds of staff shortages to be so widespread.

Why?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is implementing a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

The last time such an overhaul occurred was in 2007.

The CFIA had introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time in the office reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

With the Agency’s plan to change everything, now is precisely the riskiest time to have a widespread shortage of inspectors.

During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety.

For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection.

I am happy to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes
For immediate release

Ottawa (March 16, 2016) – The food inspection deficit that has left Alberta meat plants short-handed for more than a year is a now a national problem according to a new Abacus Data survey of front line food inspectors which found widespread staff shortages and concern that food safety is threatened, particularly in meat plants.

This finding emerges as risk to consumers is already heightened because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is on the verge of overhauling its food inspection program, and after leaked internal CFIA documents revealed sanitation inspections of meat plants in Alberta have been cut because of the shortage.

Abacus Data found more than half (55%) of respondents describe the current complement of inspectors in their immediate workplace as inadequate to ensure compliance with food safety requirements.

“Inspectors worry that a major food borne illness outbreak is on the horizon, and with good reason,” said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union that commissioned the survey.

Nearly seven in ten (69%) respondents believe that a major food borne illness outbreak is likely in the near future given the state of food safety in Canada today. Just 15% believe that such an outbreak is unlikely.

In meat plants, the inspector shortage appears more acute. Seven-in-ten (71%) inspectors in process meat plants and 60% in slaughter facilities report staffing levels in their immediate work team that are inadequate to ensure safety compliance.

Daily presence of inspection staff in meat processing plants is required by CFIA regulations, yet only 27% of meat inspectors report there are always enough staff in their local work group to provide this coverage while more than half (57%) report sufficient staff is available only some of the time; 13% say daily presence rarely happens in their work area and 4% say it never happens.

“For too long, the previous government starved food safety. The CFIA just does not have the frontline resources needed right now. This is a red flag that the new government needs to implement its election promise of new investment to shore up frontline food inspection, said Bob Kingston, President of the food inspectors union.

Earlier this month, the Treasury Board of Canada revealed that the previous government cut the CFIA’s budget by $56 million a year as part of its Strategic and Operating Review. In addition, the latest spending estimates forecast a cut to the CFIA’s Food Safety program of $57 million. The Liberals promised during the election to invest an extra $80 million in frontline food inspection.

One-in-four (24%) of all respondents have been asked by a CFIA manager to stop doing required food safety related tasks and most (59%) believe these instructions have been issued because there are not enough inspectors available to do all required food safety tasks.

“The shortage of inspectors amplifies the risk associated with CFIA’s plans to introduce a new inspection process,” Kingston said.

The survey findings emerge as the CFIA implements a new inspection system, the second time it has overhauled its approach in less than ten years.

In 2007, the CFIA introduced the Compliance Verification System (CVS), immediately before the 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak because of a shortage of inspectors. Food companies took on more responsibility for documenting their our safety practices and meat inspectors spent more time reviewing company records instead of watching employees and operations on the plant floor.

Today, the Agency is about to transform the inspection system for the same reason once again.

“During a transition such as this, the CFIA should actually increase the number of inspectors in case something goes wrong. After all, this is about public safety,” Kingston said.

The survey found half (50%) of all respondents doubt the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to introduce Inspection Modernization while protecting public safety at the same time. Only 14% agree the CFIA’s senior leadership will be able to protect public safety during the transition to Inspection Modernization.

The online survey of 580 members of the Agriculture Union who work for the CFIA was conducted by Abacus Data between February 12 and February 29, 2016. With a total of 3,712 members of the Agriculture Union who work at the CFIA, the response rate was 15.6%. The margin of error for this study of 4.15%, 19 times out of 20.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca

The Abacus Data report is available here.

Related document: News conference speaking notes

Bob Kingston, président

Syndicat Agriculture – AFPC

Mercredi, 16 mars 2016

Edmonton, AB

La version prononcée fait foi

Bonjour et merci de vous être déplacés.

Je m’appelle Bob Kingston et je suis le président national du Syndicat Agriculture. Nous représentons les inspecteurs qui travaillent pour l’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments.

Je suis en congé de l’ACIA où j’ai travaillé pendant 25 ans en tant qu’inspecteur, dont 15 ans à titre de superviseur de l’inspection.

Le 31 mars de l’an dernier, nous avons révélé que la pénurie d’inspecteurs des viandes dans le nord de l’Alberta était si grave que des tâches critiques d’inpection étaient simplement balayées sous le tapis.

Un an plus tard, presque jour pour jour, l’équipe des inspecteurs des viandes qui travaillent ici est toujours privée de 33 % de ses effectifs.

Aujourd’hui, la pénurie d’inspecteurs s’étend à tout le Canada. Nous sommes ici ce matin pour rendre public un sondage mené parmi les inspecteurs des aliments qui vous fournira un aperçu du système de la sécurité des aliments depuis la ligne de front où nos membres travaillent.

Les résultats du sondages fournissent une perspective que la direction de l’ACIA voit rarement et dont elle ne parle jamais.

Le message de l’ACIA est que tout va bien. Ils prétendent qu’il n’y a pas eu de coupures. Ils produisent des chiffres pour démontrer qu’il y a plus d’inspecteurs que nécessaire. Mais leurs chiffres couvrent des postes même si ces postes sont vacants et que plus aucun inspecteur n’y travaille.

Sur la ligne de front, l’histoire est complètement différente.

Le sondage des inspecteurs que nous publions ce matin a été mené par une firme qui est bien connue et respectée dans cette ville.

Abacus Data a récolté les opinions de 580 employés qui travaillent pour l’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments. Leurs conclusions racontent une histoire passablement différente et troublante par rapport à celle avec laquelle vous pouvez être familier en provenance de l’Agence.

D’abord, plus de la moitié de ceux qui ont répondu au sondage déclarent qu’ils n’ont pas assez d’inspecteurs dans leur milieu de travail immédiat pour assurer la conformité aux exigences de salubrité des aliments.

En d’autres mots, le système qui est censé assurer la sécurité de nos approvisionnements alimentaires n’est pas déployé complètement parce qu’il n’y a pas assez d’inspecteurs pour faire le travail.

Des fissures sont en train de s’ouvrir dans le système. Là où les inspecteurs vérifiaient tous les jours la propreté d’une usine de transformation, la vérification n’est plus faite que trois fois par semaine. Cela signifie que les inspecteurs ne font enquête sur des prétentions frauduleuses formulées par des restaurants qu’après avoir reçu une plainte à ce sujet. Cela signifie que la manipulation sûre et sans cruauté des animaux est l’exception plutôt que la règle.

Le système de la salubrité des aliments est dépouillé jusqu’à l’os. Il fonctionne à un niveau minimum, sans aucun jeu. En dessous de ces minimums, les consommateurs seront exposés à des risques non encore mesurés, et cela devrait tous nous inquiéter.

Autre fait dont nous pourrions nous inquiéter : un inspecteur sur quatre s’est vu demander par un gestionnaire de l’ACIA de cesser d’accomplir des tâches requises liées à la salubrité des aliments.

La plupart de ceux-là (59 %) croit que ces instructions ont été données parce qu’il n’y a pas assez d’inspecteurs disponibles pour accomplir toutes les tâches liées à la salubrité des aliments.

Les inspecteurs s’inquiètent de la probabilité de l’éclosion d’une contamination alimentaire majeure, alors que les plans de l’ACIA de changer ses protocoles d’inspection laissent présager le pire.

Près de sept répondants sur 10 (69 %) croient que l’éclosion d’une contamination alimentaire majeure est probable dans un avenir rapproché, compte tenu de l’état de la salubrité des aliments au Canada aujourd’hui. Seulement 15 % croient qu’une telle contamination est peu probable.

La triste réalité est que les gens qui sont chargés de prévenir les contaminations sont très nombreux à croire que la prochaine éclosion est toute proche sur l’horizon.

Je veux souligner que ces conclusions se rencontrent de manière plus fréquente chez les inspecteurs dans le programme d’hygiène des viandes, une des productions qui présente le plus de risques quand elle n’est pas manipulée selon les règles.

Je ne suis pas surpris, compte tenu des facteurs suivants :

Seulement 27 % des inspecteurs des viandes rapportent qu’il y a toujours suffisamment de personnel dans leur groupe de travail local pour assurer la présence quotidienne du personnel d’inspection dans les usines de traitement de la viande.

Plus de la moitié rapporte qu’il n’y a de personnel en nombre suffisant qu’une partie du temps ; et 13 % déclare que la présence quotidienne se produit rarement dans leur secteur de travail, tandis que 4 % observe que cela ne se produit jamais.

La présence quotidienne dans les usines de traitement de la viande est une exigence de sécurité absolue. C’est une exigence de salubrité pour de très bonnes raisons. La présence quotidienne permet de prévenir les problèmes avant qu’ils ne surviennent.

Le moment est particulièrement mal choisi pour que nous fassions face à de telles pénuries généralisées. Pourquoi?

Aujourd’hui, l’Agence est sur le point de transformer le système d’inspection encore une fois, pour la deuxième fois en moins de dix ans.

La dernière fois que l’ACIA a mené une refonte de ses systèmes, c’était en 2007.

L’ACIA a introduit le Système de vérification de la conformité (SVC) tout juste avant l’éclosion de listériose chez Maple Leaf Foods en 2008. Les compagnies alimentaires ont pris davantage de responsabilité à documenter leur propres pratiques de salubrité et les inspecteurs des viandes ont passé plus de temps à éplucher les archives de la compagnie plutôt que d’observer le comportement des employés et les opérations sur le plancher de l’usine.

Aujourd’hui, l’Agence est sur le point de transformer le système d’inspection une autre fois, pour la même raison.

Durant une transition comme celle-ci, l’ACIA devrait effectivement augmenter le nombre des inspecteurs, au cas où les choses tourneraient mal. Après tout, on parle ici de la sécurité du public.

Pendant trop longtemps, le gouvernement précédent a privé de ressources la salubrité alimentaire. L’ACIA n’a tout simplement pas les ressources de première ligne dont elle a besoin en ce moment. C’est un signal d’alarme qui indique que le nouveau gouvernement doit mettre en œuvre ses promesses électorales de nouveaux investissements pour consolider l’inspection des aliments en première ligne.

J’aurai plaisir à répondre à vos questions.

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Information : Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 • jim@foodsafetyfirst.ca