Bovine university

Bruce Cheadle reviews the latest concerns about the food inspection system.

As is often the case, reality is more nuanced than the rhetoric. The XL plant does indeed have a Japan-specific inspection station, Paul Mayers, the CFIA’s vice-president of programs, explained in a conference call. Japan only allows the import of beef from cattle younger than 20 months. Those export carcasses for Japan must be free of elements such as spinal columns, fecal and intestinal materials — conditions that also apply to all Canada’s domestic and export beef. “Japan … requires that a specific station be present on the line in order to confirm those conditions,” said Mayers. “Is it necessary in the context of market access? Yes. Is it a requirement from a food safety perspective? No, because that assurance is provided already in terms of the system.”

And that’s where the real debate begins. Malcolm Allen, the NDP agriculture critic, said the Japan station is the last point of inspection. “In that slaughterhouse there is one station left before it exits the plant and it’s a shower. It gets showered,” fumed the MP. “The shower will not wash off fecal material. In fact, we have it on authority from one of the chief veterinarians that it actually may just spread it around the meat, in which case the carcass would be even more contaminated than if you just simply cut it off.”

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