The decision to eliminate the Canadian Food Inspection Agency program requiring companies to get all labels approved for meat and processed fruit and vegetable products before they get to market was made quietly in November...It's worth noting first just how much less efficient the Cons' plan would make the CFIA. Even as the government talking points refer to hiring more inspectors, the effect of focusing on in-store inspections rather than verification at the source is to require many more inspectors to do less effective work. And nobody would figure to gain from that result - with the possible exception of a party looking for an excuse to carry out more cuts later.
Robert de Valk, a food-regulation consultant specializing in labelling, says the reasoning doesn't hold up. After reviewing details of the plan supported by Treasury Board, he said the decision to terminate the pre-market label approval for domestic and imported products is the "most dangerous part" because it undermines consumer confidence.
The former member of a food policy group advising the agriculture minister said "we are taking something that works and creating confusion in the consumer's mind. When you create confusion in the consumer's mind, their confidence drops, and that's dangerous."
De Valk, the Canadian representative of the North American Meat Processors Association, joins a growing list of industry leaders opposing the move, even as the government tries to sell it as a business-friendly move to "reduce the regulatory burden by eliminating the requirements for mandatory label registration," according to the talking points.
The Food Processors of Canada says the decision to cut the program is like "playing Russian roulette with the Canadian public." President Christopher Kyte said the label review unit is composed of about eight people who play a vital role in food safety.
"They prevent mislabelling and unsafe products from ending up on store shelves. They catch things like illegal chemicals and misleading health claims. What we want to do is prevent these products from reaching the marketplace. To chase down these products in grocery stores doesn't seem like a good use of our inspectors."...
"It doesn't make sense to do away with pre-market review to save $87,000," (De Valk) said, arguing it's wiser to employ a handful of people to ensure labels are accurate instead of asking hundreds of inspectors to review labels on store shelves.
That said, the larger industry concern figures to be with consumer confidence rather than government efficiency. With even the industry involved recognizing that it's better off with added assurances that products are safe, there doesn't seem to be anybody other than the Harper government (and perhaps a presumably small minority of producers who would prefer to take a chance with public safety) with any stake in backing the Cons' CFIA cuts. But since the Cons are apparently too bent on forcing an election to even bother performing the jobs they currently hold, it seems clear that it'll take a change in government to reverse the decision for the benefit of both producers and consumers.