UPDATED: Who inspects the meat inspectors?

An as-yet-unnamed prime ministerial appointee, of course, with a mandate to “examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the response of the federal organizations … [and] their food safety partners.”

What’s not clear, however, is whether that will include Maple Leaf Foods or any other private company involved in the recall, despite recent media reports that suggest the outbreak could have been caused by contaminated meat slicers.

NOTE:  Less than an hour after this release came out, PMO put out an updated version, which sets March 15, 2009 as the deadline for the final report.

For release:   Immediate


OTTAWA – The Prime Minister today released the terms of reference for the independent investigation into the recent listeriosis outbreak related to certain processed meat products from Maple Leaf Foods.

The Canadian food safety system is generally regarded as one of the best in the world. Protecting the health of Canadian families and the safety of the Canadian food supply is of paramount importance to the Government of Canada. As such, it is important to determine exactly what transpired in regards to the listeriosis outbreak.

The investigation into the listeria outbreak will:

(i) examine the events, circumstances and factors that contributed to the listeriosis outbreak;

(ii) review the efficiency and effectiveness of the response of the federal organizations, in conjunction with their food safety system partners, in terms of prevention, recall of contaminated products and collaboration and communication with its food safety system partners and consumers;

(iii) make recommendations, based on lessons learned from this event and from other countries in terms of best practices, as to what could be done to enhance both prevention of a similar outbreak occurrence in the future, and removal of contaminated product from the food supply;

(iv) perform his/her duties without expressing any conclusion or recommendation regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization;

(v) adopt procedures for the expedient and proper conduct of the investigation, including reviewing relevant records and documents and consulting as appropriate; and

(vi) submit to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in both official languages, a report on the matters listed in (i) to (iv) above.

UPDATE: Huh. I wonder if today’s announcement had anything to do with this:

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz held a news conference yesterday to discuss the outbreak. The conference was rescheduled twice — on the second occasion, reporters received a notification of the new time after the time at which the conference was to begin. An audio recording of the news conference provided to The Globe and Mail indicates it lasted about seven minutes.

You almost have to feel sorry for the poor guy — I mean, the powers that be have made him hold one of these press conferences every single day since the story broke, and the one time that he could have garnered a half-decent headline, he gets elbowed out of the way and PMO gets the credit.

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