The union representing Canada's food inspectors says federal cuts are compromising food safety in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Metro Vancouver is now the only major metropolitan area in Canada without a team of dedicated food inspectors to investigate cases of food fraud and unsafe retail food displays.
The Agriculture Union says there were four inspectors in the region until January, when the team was disbanded and the workers re-assigned to other positions within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
The role of the inspectors is to protect consumers and retailers from false claims about food products, misleading weights, unsafe retail food displays and misleading product descriptions.
Bob Kingston, national president of the Agriculture Union, gives the example of a consumer buying a pack of beef, who could be misled if the contents of the so-called beef include other meats.
Kingston said the inspectors' job would have been to verify the species the meat came from, but now those inspectors are on other CFIA teams that only verify the fillers and fat content of the meat.
Kingston also said there will be no further inspections of the content of olive oil, which is often cut with less expensive oils.
Kingston said Ottawa’s plans would cut the CFIA’s food safety program by $35 million and 192 food safety positions by 2016/17.
Union wrong, says CFIA
In a written statement, the CFIA claims the union's statements are false.
"There have been no cuts to food safety," says the statement. Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world."
The CFIA says there was a staff realignment. No jobs were cut and it says the number of food inspectors remains the same.
"The CFIA continues to inspect food labels as part of the agency's regular inspection activities," it says.
"When there is a labelling complaint, the CFIA follows up with industry to determine if there is an issue and, if there is, takes appropriate action to correct the situation. This could range from a warning letter up to prosecution."
However, without dedicated inspectors, the union claims the CFIA is now relying on complaints from consumers to prompt food investigations.