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Feds leave slaughterhouse inspections to B.C.

The federal government has announced it will be leaving the task of slaughterhouse inspections to the provinces after 2014, although it will continue to examine slaughterhouses that export meat out of province.

The Government of British Columbia has a contract with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) to inspect the slaughterhouses in the province that provide meat for B.C. But that contract will run out by 2014, when the government will turn the process over to provincial governments in B.C., Manitoba, and Saskatchewan—all other provinces already inspect their own plants.

According to a story published by Post Media today, the move will save CIFA $4-million. But the article says critics are afraid the move will put the meat industry, and the health of consumers, at risk:

But Bob Kingston, president of the union representing federal food safety inspectors, said the move could expose consumers in the three provinces to a heightened risk of eating contaminated meat products. He cited a lack of inspection experience and infrastructure in the three provinces compared to such provinces as Ontario and Alberta, which have well-established and well-supported meat-inspection systems.

This could be compounded because provincial meat inspection standards are often much less stringent than those in place at federally registered facilities, Mr. Kingston said.

But in a statement emailed to The Tyee, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the decision does not mean a reduction in safety standards in any way.

"We have been aware of the CFIA’s decision for some time. In fact, here in B.C. we have been actively working with industry and stakeholders since the beginning of the year on a review of provincial meat inspection services, and will have options developed by the fall for next steps – well in advance of January 2014, when the CFIA will withdraw inspection service. This will ensure a smooth transition to a new inspection model," says the statement.

"It remains to be seen what the costs for inspection services in B.C. will be until it we have determined what the new model will look like. However, food safety will not be jeopardized because of economic considerations."

Katie Hyslop is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in The Tyee, Meaphone Magazine,, and Granville Online.

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