Federal funding to ensure Canadian food safety inspections continue during COVID-19 pandemic

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      Over the past year, a number of Canadian food recalls have taken place after outbreaks due to norovirus, Listeria, and E. coli contamination.

      While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges for conducting food inspections, Canadian food inspectors are adapting as they ensure food safety standards and the continuation of the food supply chain.

      The federal government announced today (April 14) that it will provide $20 million to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to ensure hiring, training and equipping staff to continue food inspections and minimize supply disruptions. Provincial food inspectors will also be trained to support the CFIA when required.

      The funding will also help the CFIA transition to flexible means for conducting inspections, including using electronic devices, during the pandemic.

      Meanwhile, the CFIA is also working towards making packaged food for use by establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, more available at grocery stores and other retail outlets while ensuring food safety isn’t compromised and to reduce food waste.

      While there isn’t any evidence to that the virus is transmitted through food, the World Health Organization advises precautionary measures for food handling and preparation.

      On April 1, the federal and Albertan governments announced that federal and provincial inspections will cooperate on services and a protocol has been developed for resuming operations in meat processing facilities after COVID-19 is detected.

      This week, a union representing workers at the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Alberta, stated that there are 38 workers confirmed with COVID-19.

      After the union president wrote to Cargill, the company, which is based in Minnesota, announced it is taking measures such as reducing shifts, banning visitors, taking temperatures of employees, increased sanitation, and more.

      Previously, the federal government announced on April 13 that it was allocating $50 million to support farming, fish harvesting, and food production and processing employers to enact health measures for the 14-day mandatory isolation period for all workers arriving from abroad.

      The Canadian government will supply employers with $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker will to ensure requirements are met.

      The government had exempted temporary foreign workers from travel restrictions, due to food-sector labour shortages that were already occurring before the pandemic. However, the exemption required arriving workers to follow to the 14-day isolation stipulation.

      Employers who don’t comply with the Quarantine Act or isolation protocols can face fines and sanctions.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook