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Canada Says Weatherill’s 57 Food Safety Reforms Now in Place

Canada’s federal government Monday said it has now addressed all 57 food-safety recommendations made by independent investigator Sheila Weatherill after the country’s deadly 2008 listeriosis outbreak.

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The Conservative government also said it would be introducing a new food safety bill shortly to simplify and modernize Canadian law on the subject.

In its final report in response to the July 2009 Weatherill report, the government claimed progress has been made on reducing food safety risks, enhancing surveillance and early detection of foodborne pathogens and illnesses and improving emergency response.

“Food safety is a priority for this Government, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “We continue to work with consumers, producers, industry and our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that our food safety system remains one of the best in the world.”

The report said Canada has made a series of investments to improve food safety. In 2009, it invested $75 million in improvements to increase Canada’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to future foodborne illness outbreaks. In 2010, it allocated $13 a year for two years to increase the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) meat and poultry inspection capacity.

In 2011, an additional $100 million was committed over five years for more inspector training, tools and technology, and increased scientific capacity.  These investments were in addition to a five-year $489.5 million commitment to implement the Food and Consumer Safety Action plan.

“We have taken concrete action to improve how we detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks,” said Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “From stronger response plans with our food safety partners to using innovative technologies in our labs, we are better prepared to protect the health of Canadians.”

The progress report was issued by CFIA and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The independent investigation into the 2008 outbreak caused by contaminated ready-to-eat meats manufactured by Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto. It resulted in 22 deaths of mostly elderly Canadians — 40 percent of all those infected.

Weatherill led an independent investigation that in part blamed the outbreak on a “vacuum in senior leadership,” which put pressure on Ottawa. The Government of Canada agreed to implement her recommendations in 2009.

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