Times Colonist

Focus group: Hire more food inspectors

- SARAH SCHMIDT

OTTAWA — Canadians don’t think the federal government has enough health inspectors to make sure the food for sale in grocery stores is safe, a newly released federal focus group report has found.

Health Canada conducted a series of focus groups in February in Toronto and Montreal to determine the level of concern about food and consumer product safety in Canada.

While few are “really seized” by the issue as a major concern and believe Ottawa is doing a “fairly good job” on product safety, the Strategic Council, which conducted the focus groups, found two “particular points of vulnerabil­ity for perception­s on government performanc­e.”

Most believed that the number of health inspectors has declined in recent years and singled out food inspection agencies, in particular, as “understaff­ed and therefore unable to effectivel­y and thoroughly monitor the quality of food marketed in Canadian grocery stores and other retail outlets.”

Most also wanted to see an emphasis on prevention over recalls so dangerous products or unsafe food never make it on to store shelves.

Only a few participan­ts “raised concerns that the recent spate of recalls suggests a deeper, and more troublesom­e, issue with respect to the inability of government to prevent incidents of unsafe products before the products reaches the store shelves in the first place.”

But once this concern was raised, most “quickly agreed this was problemati­c and endorsed a desire for a system that placed more emphasis on preventing issues before they posed a health risk.”

Results of the focus groups also found that much work needs to be to inform Canadians about the government’s Food and Consumer Product Safety Action Plan. Announced in December, the plan has a $113-million implementa­tion price tag over two years.

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