Beyond Factory Farming urges implementation of listeria report recommendations

[Ottawa] Beyond Factory Farming applauds the findings of Sheila Weatherill after her investigation of the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, and supports the full implementation of the recommendations contained in her report released July 21.

“Ms Weatherill’s report is a thorough and refreshingly candid examination of the causes behind the tragic outbreak,” Beyond Factory Farming’s Cathy Holtslander remarked. “It also offers informed and sound recommendations that we believe would substantially improve food safety in this country.”

The report portrays a food safety system that was woefully lacking in resources and accountability prior to the outbreak, then slow to act and poorly coordinated once it struck.

“The fact that workers at Maple Leaf Foods were aware of the presence of listeria at the plant more than a full year before the outbreak and failed to address it properly or report it to the authorities does not lend much credibility to the repeated claims from industry that it is capable of policing itself,” Holtslander said. “But the belated discovery of listeria infected cold cuts by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, its sluggish response and poor coordination with the other public agencies concerned hardly inspires confidence either.”

While Weatherill reported that a lack of CFIA inspectors and resources may have contributed to the delay in identifying the presence of listeria at Maple Leaf Foods, the investigator failed to recommend that the CFIA hire additional inspectors.

“We found it odd that Weatherill declined to recommend that the CFIA recruit additional inspectors,” Holtslander said. “Particularly after she took pains to point out that the number, capacity, and training of the inspectors assigned to the plant were ‘stressed’ owing to responsibilities elsewhere.”

Perhaps the most important of Weatherill’s recommendations was the final one calling upon government to report back to the public on the implementation of all the report’s recommendations with two years together with an assessment of their impact on improving Canada’s food safety and food safety emergency response systems.

“Twenty-two Canadians died as a result of this preventable outbreak,” Holtslander said. “That it happened at all is unacceptable, but it would be a travesty were it allowed to happen again. Weatherill’s recommendations must be implemented as soon as possible and government should inform the public on its progress in doing so if Canadians are to again feel confident in the food safety system.”

To read more Beyond Factory Farming analysis of the Weatherill report visit our listeriosis page.