Accountability completely off the radar with tainted beef memo

Revelations that Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors were instructed to allow contaminated carcasses to be processed in the now infamous XL Foods plant in southern Alberta confirm the worst suspicions of those who believe the agency is receiving direction that flies in the face of actual food safety for the general public.  It would seem that protecting the plant is the primary concern for the Conservative government and the health and welfare of the general public is a distant afterthought.

What’s worse is that meat set for export to Japan was given a thorough inspection while beef intended for the domestic market was allowed to proceed despite obvious fecal matter contamination.    This was the content of a memo from the chief inspector at the plant in southern Alberta.  Certainly anyone reading this will now think twice about eating beef rare and steak tartar is likely dropping off menus clear across the country.

The memo states, “Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses.”  The implications are enormous.  Clearly value is placed on exports, the health of people in other countries and the bottom line for the company.  The health of Canadians is dismissed in a cavalier fashion as are the costs associated with the delivery of health care and productivity when people get sick, or the larger problems that arise when these oversights result in death. 

Ultimately, the tail is wagging the dog and if this doesn’t cost the embattled Minister of Agriculture his job, nothing will.  Canada is lurching from crisis to crisis with our meat supply and the Minister is telling us all is safe.  The memo suggests otherwise and points to incompetence at best and much worse in practice.  Either way the jig should be up.  The directive is four years old and was only clarified two weeks ago, well after the E-coli crisis that saw the whole plant shut down recently.

The fact is that somewhere along the way the memo was either approved or ignored by the higher-ups in the agency and the Minister’s office.  This is the same Minister that presided over the Listeriosis crisis that cost Canadian lives and now the largest beef recall in Canadian history.  Ministerial responsibility should have long ago culled him.   That he sits in cabinet still is yet another example of how much the Harper Conservatives are willing to disregard the conventions of our democracy to protect one of their own. 

Somewhere along the line we need a reset on whose safety our federal institutions are in place to protect.  Sooner or later this government has to be held to account for the disregard they have shown for our food safety.  The leaked memo is more evidence that accountability was tossed aside, when it matters the most.