Survey finds Quebec-wide meat inspector shortage

MONTREAL, April 20, 2015 /CNW/ - Every federal meat inspection team in the province of Quebec is working shorthanded today, leaving most meat processing and slaughter establishments in the province operating with fewer meat inspectors than are required to ensure compliance with safety requirements.

This finding emerges from a detailed staffing survey released this morning by the meat inspectors' union.

"There is a critical shortage of meat inspectors in Quebec and in other parts of the country as well.  This means that corners are being cut when it comes to safety.  Further cuts to CFIA funding rumoured to be in tomorrow's budget would come with high risk for consumer safety, " said Bob Kingston, President of the Agriculture Union that represents federal food inspectors.


Meat Inspectors in Quebec

Processing

Region

Minimum

Required

Positions

filled

On the job

% Below

Minimum

Montreal West

85

79

66

22%

Montreal East

45

40

30

33%

Quebec

19

16

13

32%

St-Hyacinthe

8

7

6

25%

Slaughter

Montreal West

28

24

23

18%

Montreal East

56.3

57

46.2

18%

Quebec

54

49

44

19%

St-Hyacinthe

63

60

53

16%

 

Through internal sources, the Union checked staffing levels at meat processing and slaughter establishments throughout Quebec, including positions not filled. 

The bottom line number of inspectors on the job discounts staff on leave (typically, human resources planners recommend employers plan for a 30% leave factor when deploying staff).

"Essential training has been cancelled or delayed as a result of the staffing crisis," said Rick Cormier, Second National Executive Vice-President of the Agriculture Union.

Facilities canvassed for the staffing survey include meat processing and slaughter plants where cut, ready-to-eat and prepared meats are produced.  These kind of facilities range from very large businesses like the Montreal-based firm Olymel L.P. which employs more than 10,000 people, to much smaller companies. 

"The federal government has lowered its guard since the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak that killed 22 Canadians.  I sincerely hope another major outbreak is not required to force the government to protect Canadian consumers," Kingston said.

CFIA food safety programs are short staffed across the country:

  • Meat inspectors working in meat processing plants throughout Alberta that produce the highest risk ready-to-eat products have been operating 33% below required minimum staffing levels for more than a year.
  • Inspection tasks in meat plants there have been reduced as a result and a two tier system has been introduced that inspects meat destined for dinner tables in Canada to a lower standard than meat produced for export. After Health Minister Rona Ambrose called the Union's revelation "inaccurate and irresponsible" an internal CFIA document was leaked substantiating the Union announcement.
  • There is only one consumer protection inspector responsible for every restaurant and retail food outlet in the entire city of Toronto
  • Meanwhile, the entire consumer protection unit in British Columbia has been disbanded.

According to CFIA forecasts, the current government plans to cut spending on food safety by 21% by 2016–17.  This will translate to staff cuts of 16.5%, or 548 positions.


CFIA Food Safety Program 

Budget and Staff


Spending

FTEs

Actual (2013/14)1

$364 million

3296

Planned (2016/17)2

$286 million

2748

Change

-$78 million

-548

 

The union is calling on the government to increase food safety inspection resources and place them where they are needed on the frontline to allow the CFIA to meet its minimum inspection staffing requirements.

_________________
1 CFIA 2013-14 Departmental Performance Report (see press kit for excerpts)
2 CFIA 2014-14 Report on Plans and Priorities (see press kit for excerpts)

 

SOURCE AGRICULTURE UNION

For further information: Jim Thompson, 613-447-9592, jim@thompsoncom.ca

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