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Tricia Sheldon
September 18th, 2012

Fast Tracking Canadian Meat Inspection Leaves Food Safety in the Dust

Washington, D.C. – Food & Water Watch, along with other members of the Safe Food Coalition, delivered a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today encouraging him to immediately stop a pilot program seeking to eliminate border inspection of meat products from Canada. The letter was delivered during a “stakeholder” briefing on the program.

“Canada’s food safety track record is at an all-time low with more than a third of all Canadians getting sick from food-related causes every year,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch’s executive director. “Yesterday, the Canadian government announced an expansion of a recall involving ground beef products sold across Canada at Loblaws, Costco, Walmart, Safeway and Calahoo Meats stores, produced by XL Foods, one of Canada’s biggest exporters. But USDA thinks less inspection is a good idea?”

The letter explains the unanswered questions and bureaucratic maze that consumer advocates have been forced to navigate in order to keep up with the “Beyond the Border” initiative devised by the Obama and Harper Administrations to fast track – and in some instances bypass – inspection of Canadian meat products. It also outlines several reasons that loosening food safety requirements on the importation of food products from Canada are of grave concern.

According to a study by the Journal of Food Protection released at the beginning of the year, foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. $77.7 billion each year. “When it comes to food safety, every precaution should be taken to reduce risk, but by going along with this rash proposal, the USDA seems to be inviting risk,” said Hauter. “The current border inspection system works. It’s unconscionable to consider removing the current level of protection for U.S. consumers from tainted imported Canadian meat at any time, but especially now.”

The letter submitted to Secretary Vilsack, including photographs of damaged and contaminated shipments of Canadian meat received at U.S. border checkpoints can be found here:

Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.