Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

September 15, 2008 13:00 ET

Province Needs a Wake-Up Call on Meat Inspection: OPSEU

TEESWATER, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 15, 2008) - The Ontario government needs to wake up and provide more resources to the provincial meat inspection system to avoid a major public health incident, the union representing provincial meat inspectors says.

"The provincial meat inspection system saw big improvements after 2003, but now we're slipping backwards," says Bob Lowry, president of Local 211 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and elected leader of the 160 meat inspectors the union represents. "We need more resources now if we don't want another meat-related public health disaster on our hands."

Lowry issued the warning on the eve of the 2008 International Plowing Match which begins Tuesday in Teeswater, Ont. The annual event attracts more than 100,000 visitors and OPSEU's meat hygiene officers will operate an information booth at the Match.

The provincial meat inspection system falls under the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). About 15 per cent of the meat consumed in Ontario is slaughtered in provincially-inspected plants.

Since the 2004 report of Justice Roland Haines, the province has begun bringing hundreds of further processing (FP) plants under provincial inspection.

"Right now, OMAFRA inspects 155 slaughterhouses and 315 FP plants," said Lowry. "On Oct. 1, another 120 FP plants will be added, but at this point no inspectors for these plants have been hired."

The government must remove bureaucratic barriers to new hiring so it can increase front-line inspection staff by at least 50 per cent, Lowry said. He also pointed to several other safety problems that put public health at risk:

- OMAFRA inspectors do not test for BSE (Mad Cow) in slaughterhouses;

- OMAFRA inspectors do not do swab-testing of equipment in cutting rooms and processing plants to check for listeria, E. coli, and other contaminants;

- OMAFRA inspectors do not do random sampling and testing of ready-to-eat foods as they come off the production line.

OPSEU is calling on Ag minister Leona Dombrowsky to approve the hiring of 12 Senior Inspectors to assist overworked Area Managers, as recommended by Justice Haines.

"You can't work managers 60 hours a week in a high-stress environment and expect them to stay on top of the work," Lowry said. "We need those Senior Inspectors, and we need them now."

Contact Information

  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
    Bob Lowry
    (905) 394-1245
    Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
    Greg Hamara
    (647) 238-9933