in case there was any doubt: tory policy change caused listeriosis deaths

When government abandons its responsibility to the people to be a handmaiden for industry, people suffer. People die.
Months before the tainted meat from the Maple Leaf Plant in the Toronto area began claiming lives, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency adopted a new policy that meat inspectors now say removed clear language that required companies to report any positive listeria tests directly to inspectors.

CFIA inspectors have told the CBC and the Toronto Star that on April 1, they essentially became auditors of the companies' paperwork, which is part of the compliance verification system. CVS details the measures the country's 198 meat processing plants must adopt to ensure they're operating safely.

"Prior to April 1, [any positive listeria tests] would have had to have been, not only brought to the inspector's attention, but the inspector would have been involved in overseeing the cleanup," said Bob Kingston, head of the union representing CFIA inspectors.

"The CFIA would have been doing their own testing to validate the success of the cleanup. But after April 1, with the changes they brought in, none of that happened. They weren't required to bring their cleanup activities to the inspector's attention, [and] they wouldn't have been required to bring a failed cleanup attempt to the inspector's attention, or repeated positives."

Inspectors said had the alarm bells been sounded earlier, lives could have been saved.

More details from The Toronto Star:
A veteran inspector in the Vancouver area said the safety agency needs to go back to being more hands-on in plants. "(The new system) isn't working. Let's go back to basics, get the inspector back in the plant, spending more time there."

Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto's associate medical officer of health, said the reporting change is "absolutely a concern. This may be a perfect example of how self-regulation may not be appropriate."

In the aftermath of the outbreak, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz publicly defended the new inspection regime, saying about 50 per cent of an inspector's time is on the floor of plants and "the other 50 per cent is overseeing paperwork, most of it scientific in nature, test results and the like."

Not so, say inspectors, estimating their time on plant floors is down to between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of their day. "We shouldn't be called inspectors anymore," says one inspector in Vancouver. "We should be called auditors. I think the public wants inspectors on the floor, sleeves rolled up."

Another Toronto inspector says she and her colleagues used to be aware of everything happening in a plant. "Things have changed now. We're more the oversight and they run their own show. The problem ... is, it can all look good on paper, but you've got to be out there to see what's going on."

One inspector was startled to find no reference to mandatory reporting in the safety plans of plants he inspects. "There's nowhere in (the new system) that tells them they have to inform you of a high bacterial load."

That lost oversight, he says, had to play a role in the outbreak.

"I think it would have prevented a preventable situation like the listeria (outbreak). It has alarmed me and it's disappointing. It's a travesty for the department and a shakeup the CFIA needs to get grassroots feedback about what works and what doesn't. (This) isn't working."

But the agency's Graham said the system still protects the public.

"Are we missing things? It's unfortunate what's happened here with the outbreak. There's no doubt about that. None of us are happy about that. But is our system a good system? Yes, it is."

Yeah, "it's unfortunate". It was also preventable. I suppose we can't expect more from an agency whose minister is a failed comedian.

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