Is our food really safe?

This week’s revelation that Canadian meat destined for the U.S. is inspected more frequently than product staying in this country ought to disturb consumers in the Great White North.

This week’s revelation that Canadian meat destined for the U.S. is inspected more frequently than product staying in this country ought to disturb consumers in the Great White North.

It’s especially troubling when one considers that it was as recent as August of 2008 that a listeriosis outbreak tied to Maple Leaf products killed 22 Canadians.

In case you haven’t heard, earlier this week the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that packaged meat for Canada’s domestic market is inspected just once a week, while its counterpart shipped to the U.S. must be checked daily.

That’s the case, even though there has been an unusually high number of listeriosis cases observed in Ontario this year.

Meanwhile, new listeriosis contamination was discovered last week in two types of meat packaged under the Siena brand that were distributed in Alberta and Ontario.

A total of five Siena products have been recalled – salami in December and cooked ham, coppa and two varieties of prosciuttini in the past four days.

Saskatchewan’s Merchant Law Group, which headed up a class-action suit for families affected by the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, is leading a class-action lawsuit for people who have bought the recalled Siena products.

Amazingly, even though 22 Canadians died last year after apparently consuming tainted meat, the head of the union to which the agency’s food inspectors belong says Canada’s food inspection system really isn’t substantially better than it was back then.

Some new meat inspectors have been hired, but many of them have yet to complete their training, notes the Globe and Mail.

What will it take for the federal government to take the issue of food safety seriously?

Do another 22 people have to die? Will it take 100 people or maybe 1,000 people?

Western Canadians are upset this week about two people being killed by an avalanche in British Columbia, but what about the countless number of people who fall ill each year in this country as a result of contaminated food sold in our grocery stores and the 22 who died from listeria last year?

Food safety does not get enough attention in this country.

It’s as though the federal government doesn’t care enough, and neither does the industry.

Apparently, the only way to keep Ottawa and food processors on their game is for lawyers from firms like the Merchant Law Group to take them to court.

Seemingly, money talks louder than concern for human health.

If Canadian food processors and government officials aren’t careful, more and more Canadians will start to realize that they may be safer consuming food products processed in foreign lands than they would be buying homegrown.

If that happens, look for our economy to suffer and for employers to start laying off workers north of the Canada-U.S. international border.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.