Changes implemented since Canada’s deadly Listeria outbreak three years ago are starting to show up in the stepped up numbers of inspections and recalls by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
More inspectors and more testing are said to be behind the spike in the numbers CFIA is reporting. Recalls, for example, have risen 24 percent in the past year, to 263 from 212 in the year earlier.
CFIA reports that over the four previous years, the number of recalls were fairly even at around 230 a year. The agency anticipates increased numbers as it implements a five year Food Safety Action Plan for what it says are more aggressive and up-to-date approaches to food safety.
That plan represents the government’s commitment to reforms recommended by an independent inquiry into Canada’s 2008 Listeria outbreak linked to contaminated ready-to-eat meats and traced back to a Maple Leaf Foods meat processing plant in Toronto. A total of 57 were sickened, and 23 Canadians died.
Since then, Canada has beefed up CFIA inspection staff available for product sampling and testing to 4,898 in March 2011, up from 4,165 in March 2006.
In addition to more inspection, CFIA officials credit more information sharing between government and industry and other partners, like their counterparts in the United States, for what they now believe is a more “proactive, prevention-focused” food safety system.
CFIA has also made stepped up enforcement through the use of its criminal and civil courts in recent months.