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U.S. report says inspections of Canadian
meat imports have been
Libby Quaid, Canadian Press
January 10, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) - Two years ago, U.S. food safety officials warned
that Canadian meat and poultry inspections were lacking, yet the
Agriculture Department refused to stop the flow of imports from
Canada, a department investigation found.
Since then, two billion kilograms of processed meat made its way to
U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, according to a report from the
department's inspector general.
The Agriculture Department said Monday it had addressed problems at
individual Canadian plants, some of which lost export privileges.
"In no instance was public health placed at risk," said Richard
Raymond, undersecretary for food safety.
Meanwhile, Canada has altered its system in an attempt to comply
with U.S. rules. As the leading foreign supplier of fresh and frozen
red meat to the U.S., Canada shipped more than $2 billion US worth
in 2004, according to department reports.
In a November 2003 memo to then-secretary Ann Veneman, the
department's Food Safety and Inspection Service warned that public
health could be compromised if the agency didn't respond immediately
to deficiencies in Canada's system.
Yet food safety officials postponed a review of Canada's system the
following year. According to an internal e-mail, Veneman directed
FSIS to work with Canadian inspection officials to resolve the
"When FSIS officials returned to Canada in May 2005, they continued
to find the same types of deficiencies they found in 2003," the
The department halted shipments of beef and live cattle after the
discovery of mad cow disease in Canada in 2003; those restrictions
have since been lifted.
The report was obtained Monday by The Press.
The inspector general identified three big concerns with Canadian
-Inspections were not done daily at Canadian food processing plants.
-Canada lacked adequate sanitation controls.
-Inspectors didn't sample ready-to-eat products for listeria, which
can cause deadly food poisoning.
Daily inspections are required at U.S. processing plants, and the
law requires foreign countries to have equivalent inspections. U.S.
officials halted imports from Australia in June 2004 and Belgium in
2003 because those countries didn't have daily inspections, the
A critic said the Agriculture Department seems to have a "make it up
as we go" attitude in deciding which country's standards match U.S.
"This undermines the integrity of American food safety standards and
consumer confidence in our meat supply," said Iowa Senator Tom
Harkin, senior Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee.
Raymond noted that U.S. inspectors have doubled their testing for
listeria at Canadian ports in the past two years.
Canada has made changes since last year, a Canadian Food Inspection
Agency official said.
U.S. report says inspections of Canadian meat imports have been
deficient Libby Quaid, Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 Article tools
Daily inspections have been done at processing plants since late
summer, said Bill Anderson, CFIA director of food of animal origin.
Canada is still trying to get the U.S. Agriculture Department to
accept its previous random inspection system, he said.
Canada's tests for listeria are internationally recognized, but
inspectors there have switched to the U.S. approach of testing
finished products, Anderson said. And all processing plants have
been ordered to comply with sanitation controls similar to those in
the U.S., he said.
The Agriculture Department said it will take until 2007 to make a
final decision on whether Canada's system is equivalent to the U.S.