A report into food safety in Canada has warned that unless action is taken to tighten safety standards, incidents like the listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 people last year remain a “real risk”.
The investigation, which was led by nurse and food safety executive Sheila Weatherill, found that a shortage of adequately trained safety inspectors contributed to the outbreak.
The report said the Canadian government in Ottawa should review the training of federal inspectors, in addition to reviewing inspection resources.
Moreover, safety regulators were unprepared and acted without a sense of urgency, the report added.
The source of last year’s outbreak was found to be three types of prepared meat products made at the Maple Leaf Foods’ Bartor Road plant in Toronto.
The Weatherill Report found that evidence of contamination was discovered in advance, but not affectively monitored or acted upon. The company tried to correct a listeria problem in the plant in 2007 and 2008 with sanitation and thought it was under control, the report said.
The report called for a requirement that food companies report “all public health threats” to the government and federal inspection reports should be published.
Responding to the report, Maple Leaf president and CEO Michael McCain said that the company has since taken action to improve safety standards.
“We thought we had a good food safety programme last August, but our efforts failed with tragic consequences. Since then we have transformed every aspect of our food safety program. We cannot and will not forget the lessons of last August and that means imposing the highest standard of food safety in every product we make,” McCain said.