Mr. Speaker, in the summer of 2008, an outbreak of food-borne illness caused by the presence of listeria in ready-to-eat meat resulted in 191 recalls, 57 reported cases of listeriosis and the deaths of 23 Canadians. The Government of Canada immediately put in place preventative measures and launched reviews to find ways to reduce the risk of similar outbreaks in the future. The government also appointed an independent investigator, Sheila Weatherill, to examine the factors that contributed to the 2008 outbreak. In July 2009, the independent investigator submitted a report, the Weatherill report, which identified gaps in the food safety system and put forward 57 recommendations to minimize the risk of a similar outbreak in the future.
In September 2009, the government announced that it would act on all of the recommendations in the Weatherill report and committed $75M over three years to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA; Health Canada, HC; and the Public Health Agency of Canada, PHAC, to improve the government’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to food-borne illness outbreaks.
To date, considerable action has been taken, as outlined in the government’s reports, “Progress on Food Safety,” of March 2010, October 2010, and June 2011; and the “Final Report to Canadians”, December 2011.
Budget 2011 allocated $100 million over five years to the CFIA to improve inspection capacity. This initiative will also enable the CFIA to complete the outstanding recommendations that pertain to equipping inspectors with modern technology, training of inspectors, and the development of an integrated laboratory network proposal. These investments build on the government’s 2009 investment of $75 million to implement the Weatherill recommendations and the 2008 commitment of $489.5 million over five years in the food and consumer safety action plan.
For more detailed information, please refer to the report entitled “Action on Weatherill Recommendations to Strengthen the Food Safety System: Final Report to Canadians”. This report was posted on the government’s food safety portal, www.foodsafety.gc.ca, on December 19, 2011.