Canada takes action on food safety

by Eric Schroeder
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OTTAWA — The Government of Canada on Sept. 11 unveiled a series of initiatives designed to strengthen its food safety system, backed by a $75 million investment that will act on all 57 recommendations made by Sheila Weatherill, an independent investigator and the former head of Edmonton’s Capital Health Authority.

"The government of Canada’s highest priority is the safety of Canadians," said Gerry Ritz, Agriculture Minister. "We are making significant investments to hire more inspectors; update technologies and protocols; and, improve communication so that Canadians have the information they need to protect their families."

As part of the initiative, the government will:

• hire 166 new food safety staff members with 70 focusing on ready-to-eat-meat facilities;

• provide 24/7 availability of health risk assessment teams to improve support to food safety investigations;

• improve coordination among federal and provincial departments and agencies;

• improve communications to vulnerable populations before and during a foodborne illness outbreak;

• improve tracking of potential foodborne illness outbreaks through a national surveillance system;

• improve detection methods for Listeria monocytogenes and other hazards in food to reduce testing time and enable more rapid response during food safety investigations, as well as expanding the government’s ability to do additional Listeria testing; and

• initiate a third-party audit to make sure Canada’s food inspection system has the right resources dedicated to the right priorities.

The $75 million investment comes on top of $113 million set aside by the government in 2008 for food safety.

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