Evidence of meeting #42 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was food.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Brian Evans  Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Food Safety Officer, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Paul Mayers  Associate Vice-President, Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Cameron Prince  Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Martine Dubuc  Vice-President, Science, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

December 7th, 2010 / 10 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Thank you.

We received a response to an order paper question on inspection staff. It said inspection staff is stationed in field offices, laboratories, and food processing facilities across the country, within four operational areas and eighteen regions. The number of total field inspection staff that was given to us in March of this year was 3,342.

Of that number, can you tell us exactly how many--part time and full time, exact numbers--are dedicated to the beef industry?

10 a.m.

Associate Vice-President, Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Paul Mayers

Mr. Chairman, it's important when one considers inspector numbers to understand the agency's operating parameters. We cover plants that slaughter more than one species. We, in terms of our coverage at meat processing, cover plants that handle much more than just beef. Our focus is to ensure that we have the right inspection staff to cover the food safety requirements of Canada.

We don't break down our numbers by who's covering--

10 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt, but could you provide to me, to this committee, in writing, the number of full-time equivalents that you have dedicated, of the 3,342, to the beef industry so that we have an answer? Is that a fair question?

10 a.m.

An hon. member

He just answered it.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

No, he didn't answer it.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

I think what Mr. Mayers--

10 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

I'm just looking for a number, Mr. Chair.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

I know you are. I'm just trying to point out that I think what he's saying is that it may not be quite as easy as what you're asking, because the inspectors—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Evans, I think, wants to answer.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

—inspect a number of different industries.

Go ahead, Mr. Evans.

10:05 a.m.

Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Food Safety Officer, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Dr. Brian Evans

I appreciate the question in terms of trying to break down an inspector to a specific species. Again, you're into that reality where, in our world, we have people who have designated authority under the Meat Inspection Act. He may be doing poultry, pork, or beef under those authorities.

Similarly, under the animal health circumstance, we have inspectors who are designated under animal health. Some of that may be humane transportation. He may be looking at a mixed load. There may be cattle on that load, or there may be other components to that. He could be doing a disease investigation on a rabies call, which may or may not relate to a cow; it could relate to other species.

We can certainly give you hard numbers. We know the number of inspectors we have at any given time in the organization, and we can tell you the authorities they operate under, but they are not required, on a daily basis, to fill in a time chart and say, “Today I did ten minutes for the beef industry and x minutes for another industry.” Their time is not tracked in that way.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you.

Mr. Richards, you have five minutes.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to focus on the inspection staff as well. Our government has hired, I believe, 538 new inspection staff since we've taken office, and we're hiring another 170 inspectors to fill some of the gaps that may exist in the system.

That's a lot of inspectors to hire in that period of time. Obviously these people don't simply walk in off the street and start inspecting plants the next day. There's a process they go through to be fully qualified and fully trained to meet the standards we would expect from our inspectors to ensure that our food is safe for Canadians.

Can you give me more information and background on exactly what type of background these people have when you hire them, what kind of training they go through, and what length of time it takes to complete that kind of training before they can begin inspecting our food to ensure it's safe for Canadians?

10:05 a.m.

Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Food Safety Officer, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Dr. Brian Evans

Thank you, honourable member. I'll ask Cameron Prince to address your question.

10:05 a.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Cameron Prince

Thank you for the question.

Yes, we are in the process of hiring staff. We've received funding for 170 new inspectors. I'm pleased to announce that as of today we have hired 157 already.

The people we're looking for to do these kinds of jobs have technical or science backgrounds preferably, although there are many people in the meat industry who have very intimate knowledge of the industry, in combination with technical backgrounds. We're looking for people who have graduated from community colleges or university in food science and have related meat experience.

As far as the training goes, we've recently implemented a very comprehensive 29-week training program for meat inspectors. There are nine weeks in class learning how to do the inspection tasks under the compliance verification system, learning how to do sampling, and learning how to use technology for IM/IT tools, and that sort of thing. So it is very comprehensive.

During the other 20 weeks they work with experienced inspectors to be mentored to learn how to conduct themselves with the industry and do inspection and compliance activities. It is quite a comprehensive training system we've put in place over the last year.