Tougher regulations

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There could hardly be a more creditable voice for tougher food-quality controls than the company at the centre of last year's listeriosis outbreak.
The president of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, said Monday the inspection process in Canada has to be stricter. Specifically, he made reference to the need for more inspectors in food processing plants.
That, of course, is a huge factor. As the news broke last summer of the Maple Leaf plant in the Toronto area as being the source of the Listeria-tainted meat eventually linked to 21 deaths, Canadians heard of the inadequacy of the system. The plant in question, amazingly, had one inspector, who also had duties at other plants.
In addition, union spokespeople representing the Canada Food Inspection Agency described the mounds of paperwork required of inspectors. Hands-on inspection on the floor of plants was called inadequate by many critics of the system.
Maple Leaf certainly suffered following the catastrophe. Sales plummeted. It bought air time to tell people it would do everything it could to ensure the quality of its product.
In making his pitch, McCain also said visual checks aren't enough. You can't see bacteria.
Since the outbreak the company has instituted far more stringent testing for bacteria.
But he also called on federal government to toughen its food-safety regime. He said Ottawa needs to better define industry's role when it comes to food safety. He added that regulations in the industry need to be applied evenly across the board.
Considering the public reaction to his company's products, McCain's assertion couldn't have been easy to make. He said there has to be tough accountability for companies that fall short of their obligations.
There's no excuse for the federal government to lag on this. If it's more inspectors and more testing that's needed, it's a simple matter of drafting new regulations. Let's get with it.

Organizations: Maple Leaf Foods, Canada Food Inspection Agency

Geographic location: Maple Leaf, Canada, Toronto Ottawa

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