Canada: poultry slaughterhouse rules pose risk

There will be a greater human health risk in Canada under new rules that allow slaughterhouses to inspect themselves, say federal veterinarians.

Under proposed changes to Canada's inspection system, slaughterhouse workers will become responsible for food safety monitoring now carried out by independent veterinarians employed by the CFIA.

The complaint is outlined in a legal action filed by federal veterinarians against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

A notice filed in Federal Court by the Professional Institute of the Public Service says the new rules are "contrary to the public interest" to replace qualified independent veterinarians with unqualified people who are "not subject to public scrutiny".

"For slaughterhouse operators to watch for red spots or anything of the kind (on poultry carcasses) could have more serious ramifications than just the carcass in front of them," said Michele Demers, president of the union representing 611 federal veterinarians.

"It could be communicable disease. It could be that a whole batch of poultry needs to be rejected. It could have all kinds of things that a slaughterhouse operator doesn't have the expertise to make a judgment on. There's a reason why veterinary doctors have been given that role."

The veterinarians' union has until the end of the month to file affidavits supporting its application, and the CFIA will then have 30 days to file its response in court.


Natalie Berkhout

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