national flag of canada on a black & white cloudy backgroundCanada’s food safety agency has cut back on inspections of certain meat plants and that threatens food safety, the national president of the inspectors union said on Tuesday. At a press conference in Edmonton, Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, said that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) began reducing inspections in northern Alberta in January due to pressure to cut its budget deficit. Kingston said that the Lilydale processing plant in Calgary, which produced chicken breasts recalled last week for Listeria contamination, was one experiencing such reductions and “has only been seeing three visits a week.” He added that “tasks that verify the plant is doing their sanitation work properly have been cut in half, and the tasks that make sure everything’s clean before the plant starts up have been cut in half, and the tasks related to verifying that they even keep proper records around sanitation have been cut in half.” “It may be a coincidence,” Kingston told the Calgary Herald, “but there’s no denying the agency has been rolling the dice on food safety and hoping the health of Canadians won’t be compromised.” Sylvain Charlebois, a University of Guelph professor who studies food safety, told CBC News that reduced inspections don’t mean that domestically sold meat is less safe and that he doesn’t think the health of Canadians has been compromised. Rick Holley, a food safety expert at the University of Manitoba, told the Toronto Star that Canada has five times as many food recalls due to Listeria contamination this year than the year before. The spike has him concerned about the meat industry’s attention to sanitation practices. Meanwhile, CFIA has released a statement that “Claims that food safety activities have been cut in Northern Alberta are false.” The statement continued: “Whether it’s federal or industry staff, a food safety inspector is on the ground at all times in every federally-registered meat slaughter plant in Canada. A comprehensive system of inspection tasks are routinely carried out in federally-registered meat processing plants.”