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Agriculture, food safety hard hit by staff cuts

More than 5,500 federal service employees were notified today that they could lose their jobs. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is one of the most affected federal departments with 689 notices received.

According to a CBC report, 5,561 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) received notices saying they would be "affected" by budget cuts, either through layoffs or shifts to other departments where there are vacancies.

PSAC says that at least 344 of its members working within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency received notices this week, including CFIA veterinarians.

Gary Corbett, the president of PIPSC, told the Globe and Mail he was "very shocked" to see the extent of staffing cuts at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The Globe article also notes that the biggest food recall in history happened under Harper's Conservatives. In 2008, a listeriosis outbreak linked to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meat caused 22 deaths and 35 serious illnesses.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is responsible for overseeing the CFIA. His office was quick to release a statement following news reports about the cuts this afternoon.

"The Agency will not make any changes that would in any way place the health and safety of Canadians at risk. In fact, Economic Action Plan 2012 includes an additional $51 million over two years to enhance food safety, building upon the $100 million in last year's budget," stated Ritz in the press release.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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