The Canadian Food Inspection Agency could have done a far better job communicating with the public during this summer’s listeria outbreak, a top official at the federal agency concedes.
“There’s been a lot of hard questions asked … in terms of how we can get information to the public in as timely a way as possible,” said Dr. Brian Evans, CFIA executive vice-president and chief veterinary officer of Canada. “I accept the criticism that there is a need for us to reflect and to do a much better job of informing (Canadians).”
So what was the problem? What accounts for the lack of communication?
During the summer’s meat outbreak, repeated requests for media interviews with the CFIA were delayed and often denied outright. The typical explanation from CFIA communications staff was that approvals to speak were not forthcoming from senior government officials, especially during an election campaign when the outbreak was unfolding.
Evans said the political process should have no impact on the CFIA’s responsibility to address Canadians on important public health matters. “I’m not a politician. From our perspective, food safety is not a political issue … Where we have information that will be helpful to Canadians, we need to make sure that whatever the approval processes are, it’s important that we’re able to (speak).”