BTC: Silly questions (II) - Macleans.ca

BTC: Silly questions (II)

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Granted, this business of the Liberal plane is terribly fascinating, the stock market is a mess and it’s important we know how much the mission in Afghanistan is costing us… but shouldn’t this bit about the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s accusing the government of endangering the lives of average, unsuspecting citizens be near the top of the day’s news?

Highlights from the relevant editorial.

“In August Canada experienced the worst epidemic of listeriosis in the world … Already the death toll is more than double that of the notorious Escherichia coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario. And since Listeria monocytogenescan remain latent for 2 to 3 months, the deaths, illnesses and other effects such as spontaneous abortions may not be over yet…”

“What went wrong? As in the Walkerton and SARS epidemics, an outbreak of this size may point to systemic failures across multiple levels…”

“In practice, the new policy meant that CFIA inspectors would rarely enter meat plants to test for bacteria and testing was left mostly to companies. Self-inspection came largely to substitute for, and not just to supplement, government inspection. Self-inspection mechanisms have worked effectively in other countries, but in Canada something went very wrong…”

“Canada’s government also left national standards for Listeria lower than in many other countries…”

“Confronted with the reality of its lax Listeria standards Canada’s government did not raise them, but instead lobbied to have America’s standards lowered…”

“Government policy errors helped bring about this epidemic. Yet surprisingly, government has taken no remedial steps beyond issuing a food recall…”

“The listeriosis epidemic is a timely reminder that the Harper government has reversed much of the progress that previous governments made on governing for public health…”

“And listeriosis may be the least of it. The same November 2007 Cabinet decision that handed self-inspection to the owners of meat plants did the same for operators of animal feed mills and cut back the avian influenza preparedness program…”

“To address the increasingly serious public health problem, just 1 day before heading into an election, Prime Minister Harper called for an ‘independent investigation’ of the listeriosis epidemic. But the structure of the proposed investigation is deeply disappointing…”

“Prime Minister Harper has said he is ‘very troubled’ by the Listeriaoutbreak. So are we: Listeriais a ubiquitous soil bacterium. Future food-borne epidemics of listeriosis are certain. A full-scale public inquiry into the major failings of Canada’s food inspection system is necessary to protect Canadians from future epidemic threats, and the Canadian public should settle for nothing less than that…”

Suffice it to say, the reviews aren’t much better in a separate three-page commentary.