Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

September 18, 2007 12:06 ET

Time to Bring All Freestanding Meat Plants Under Provincial Inspection System: OPSEU

CROSBY, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 18, 2007) - Hundreds of Ontario meat processing plants that never receive a visit from a Meat Hygiene Officer must be brought into the provincial meat inspection system immediately, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

"Beginning in 2003, the McGuinty government made a number of improvements to the provincial meat inspection system and restored Ontarians' confidence in the safety of the food they eat," said Bob Eaton, OPSEU regional vice-president for eastern Ontario. "We believe the system is strong and safe where our inspectors are present. The problem that remains is that a lot of freestanding plants are not yet covered by the provincial inspection system.

"We've come a lot way, but Ontario can do better," Eaton said.

"The McGuinty government has started to bring freestanding meat plants into the provincial inspection system, but the progress to date has been far to slow," he said. "There are more than 1,000 plants out there that are not receiving the inspection they need. This is a critically important public safety issue, and we are calling on all parties to commit to dealing with it immediately - regardless of who gets elected on Oct. 10."

In Ontario, so-called "freestanding" meat plants do not slaughter animals but process meat through butchering, smoking, fermentation, and so on. They are not federally registered. Most receive only occasional visits from municipal health inspectors concerned with sanitation issues, Eaton said.

"Sanitation is only a small part of food safety, especially when meat is involved," said Eaton. "Freestanding plants need to be brought into the system so meat inspectors can work with the operators to bring them up to provincial standards, and it has to happen now."

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs does not know exactly how many freestanding meat plants are operating and has no program in place to locate them, the union has learned from ministry officials.

"Our provincial meat inspectors are doing a great job of protecting the public, but if they aren't going into hundreds of plants then it's only a matter of time before we have another meat safety crisis in Ontario," said Eaton, referring to the 2003 "deadstock" scandal at a slaughterhouse in Aylmer, Ontario.

Eaton made his comments today at the International Plowing Match in Crosby, Ontario, where the union is promoting a broad campaign to maintain a strong provincial meat safety system.

Contact Information

    Greg Hamara
    (647) 238-9933