Consumer Group: Don’t Scrap Food Safety Protections to Ease Trade with Canada
Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Commerce are co-hosting two days of meetings this week with the intention of reducing regulations to encourage more trade between the U.S. and Canada. The first day of the meeting is being held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which gives an indication of who would benefit from the changes being considered.
“The proposals, which were developed by the Obama and Harper administrations, include reducing or eliminating the regulations for imported meat, poultry and egg products from Canada. One of the proposals is to allow imports from Canada to go without inspection at the border and allow imported meat, poultry and egg products to be sent directly to U.S. processing plants. This is an unacceptable change that abandons USDA’s responsibility to U.S consumers.
“The reason that the USDA border inspection system was put into place to begin with was to prevent contaminated meat from entering the country and to make sure that trucks from Canada are transporting meat under sanitary conditions. Recently USDA import inspectors on the Canadian border turned away a truck transporting meat from Canada and a drum containing a toxic chemical in the same truck compartment. This is just one example of why U.S. consumers need imported meat to go through inspection at the border.
“Also, we understand that there is a proposal being considered that would have so-called “trusted traders” escape border inspection altogether, based on their food safety track record. We believe this violates the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act because products would be put into commerce without inspection.
“While the U.S.’s food safety track record is far from perfect, Canada has also experienced serious food borne illness outbreaks. Canada is still reeling from a 2008 outbreak involving Listeria monocytogenes that killed 22 people. The response to that crisis involved hiring over 200 inspectors, but on January 16 of this year, the Canadian government announced that it was eliminating those positions. Nearly half of our imported meat products come from Canada and the USDA Inspector General has been critical of the lax enforcement of U.S. meat and poultry regulations by Canadian food safety officials. Eliminating U.S. inspections of meat poultry and egg products from Canada is unacceptable and we urge the Obama administration to drop this proposal that prioritizes trade relations above consumer protection.”
Contact: Anna Ghosh, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org, 415-293-9905