56 million dollars cut per year

The Conservative government has cut $56 million from the budget of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), meaning that there are now fewer food safety inspectors checking Canadians' food for contamination and other hazards.

Hundreds of layoffs

It’s difficult to know the exact number of jobs lost at the CFIA. Based on projections presented by the organization in its Reports on Plans and Priorities for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, an estimated 500 full-time equivalent jobs will be lost by 2015. However, one thing is certain: 300 PSAC members working for the CFIA have lost their jobs since the end of March 2012, including 100 food-safety inspectors.

A critical situation

As a result of the cutbacks imposed to date, the number of food-safety inspectors is lower than it was in 2008, when the Maple Leaf listeriosis crisis broke out. And yet, according to an investigative report, the shortage of food-safety inspectors played an important role in the occurrence of this crisis, which claimed the lives of 22 people.

Inspection deficit

To reduce costs, the CFIA has given more responsibility to the food industry to police its own safety practices. It asks companies to develop and implement their own risk-control systems, all the while reducing on-site inspections. The result: inspectors spend more time reviewing reports produced by the companies themselves then monitoring the way things are actually running in food plants. For many experts, the incidents at Maple Leaf in 2008 and at XL Foods in 2012 demonstrate the shortcomings of such an approach.

And a lot more

Several other CFIA programs and procedures have been eliminated or diminished as a way of reducing spending, including the pre-market approval of meat labels, the verification of nutrition claims on food labels and the monitoring of meat imports.

Furthermore, meat from sick animals could end up on your plate as a result of amendments to the Meat Inspection Regulations by the Harper government in 2012, made to provide more flexibility to the industry and reduce inspection costs.