Ask Maple Leaf to stand up for food safety

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

Together, we accomplished much to improve food safety in 2011. Thanks to you and thousands of others who have intervened, Ottawa made improvements to food safety and continued to address the chronic shortage of inspectors last year.

But much of this progress is now threatened.

As unbelievable as it may seem, Ottawa has quietly announced plans to roll back important investments to shore up the weak food safety and inspection system that led to the deaths of 23 Canadians poisoned by Maple Leaf Foods tainted cold cuts in 2008.

Ottawa’s plan declares that “resources will sunset for Listeriosis, and for increased frequency of food inspection in meat processing establishments” in 2013-14. That means funding for these critical safety and inspection programs will be cut.

The good news is that there is still time to push back this dangerous cut.

On January 17, I gave a news conference in Ottawa to draw the attention of reporters and the public to these new cuts. Karen Clark whose mother died in the summer of 2008, the victim of food borne listeria poisoning, joined me at the podium. Together we released the details of Ottawa’s planned cuts to food safety and called on leaders of Canadian food processing companies to oppose them.

Ottawa’s cuts are sure to undermine consumer confidence in the safety of Canadian and imported food products. They could also cause American regulators to close the border to Canadian meat products because of sub-standard inspection.

This twin threat should send the Canadian food industry running to Ottawa to get Harper to re-consider. 

I invite you to join me and send a message to urge these business leaders – starting with Michael McCain, President of Maple Leaf Foods – to ask Ottawa to back off.

Prime Minister Harper must think our collective memories of the Maple Leaf Foods disaster have completely faded. In addition to the cuts to food safety and inspection his government has already announced, Ottawa is planning to cut a further $37 million to $74 million in food safety spending in the upcoming budget.

In my opinion as a longtime inspector, this will cripple the food safety and inspection program and undo much of the progress we have made to improve food safety and address the critical inspector shortage.

We’ve got to get Harper to roll back the cuts he’s already announced and stop him from future food safety budget slashing. That’s why we must mobilize business leaders.

Please send your message to the President of Maple Leaf Foods right now and accept my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Kingston

P.S. If Harper won’t listen to ordinary citizens, then maybe he will listen to industry leaders. Please send your message right now. In the weeks ahead we will be expanding our campaign to invite other food industry leaders to join in.