September 22, 2008

Pt 1: Food Safety - On Friday health officials in Manitoba confirmed that a baby girl, less than a year old, had died of listeriosis. Later this weekend BC officials confirmed that an elderly woman who died earlier this month was infected with the same strain of Listeria that killed 17 others. This brings the total number of people killed by Listeriosis this summer to 18. The Maple Leaf plant in Ontario that was the cause of the listeriosis outbreak reopened last week.

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Pt 2: Aboriginal Jury - For decades, there have been persistent rumblings in Canada's legal community about native Canadians being systematically excluded from juries. Little was done about it, in part because it was hard to prove.

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Pt 3: B-12 and The Brain - As we age, our brains shrink by about half-a-percent a year for the average elderly person double that for anyone with a mild cognitive impairment and about two percent a year for people with Alzheimer's.

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It's Monday, September 22nd.

North American stock markets are rallying as investors cheer Washington's plan to spend as much as a trillion dollars bailing out some of Wall Street's biggest banks.

Currently, It's about time taxpayers' dollars started trickling down to huge investment banks.

This is The Current.


Food Safety

On Friday health officials in Manitoba confirmed that a baby girl -- less than a year old, had died of listeriosis. Later this weekend BC officials confirmed that an elderly woman who died earlier this month was infected with the same strain of Listeria that killed 17 others. This brings the total number of people killed by Listeriosis this summer to 18. The Maple Leaf plant in Ontario that was the cause of the listeriosis outbreak reopened last week.

It took a couple of tasteless jokes about the listeriosis outbreak, but Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has managed to make an election issue out of Canada's food safety system. Ever since his comments were made public, the Conservative government has been in damage control mode, trying to deflect repeated calls for Minister Ritz's resignation. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions about food safety in Canada.

Bob Kingston has been doing his best to make food safety a prominent issue in this election. He's been a food inspector for 25 years. He's now the National President of the union that represents food inspectors and he was in Ottawa.

The Role of Government

For more opinions on what the role of government should be - when it comes to food safety I'm joined by Paul Hebert - a clinical epidemiologist in Ottawa. He's also the Editor-In-Chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The journal has published an on-line editorial critical of the government's handling of the listeriosis outbreak and food safety generally. And Mansel Griffiths is a food microbiologist and the Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety at the University of Guelph.

 

Aboriginal Jury

For decades, there have been persistent rumblings in Canada's legal community about native Canadians being systematically excluded from juries. Little was done about it, in part because it was hard to prove. But an affidavit filed with a coroner's inquest in Kenora, Ontario earlier this month spells out demonstrable shortcomings in aboriginal representation on the local district jury list. Julian Falconer is the lawyer who filed the affidavit and he joined us in our Toronto studio.

We also thought it was a good idea to bring in the man who will decide if a formal inquiry into Ontario's jury selection system is necessary. Chris Bentley is Ontario's Attorney General and he was also in Toronto.

The right to be tried by a jury of your peers is a fundamental part of Canada's legal system. So to discuss who is a peer we're joined by Kent Roach. He's with the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law.


 

B-12 and The Brain

As we age, our brains shrink by about half-a-percent a year for the average elderly person double that for anyone with a mild cognitive impairment and about two percent a year for people with Alzheimer's. Until now, that's just the way it was an unpleasant but unavoidable fact of life. But according to a study in the current issue of the Journal of Neurology, you might be able to do something to slow that process. The study found that elderly people with high levels of Vitamin B-12 in their blood experienced a slower rate of brain shrinkage. And that's where the controversy comes in. The most common sources of B-12 are meat, fish and milk. And that's a problem for vegetarians and vegans.

That study should be good news for Valerie Johnson. She's a registered dietitian and an independent consultant who has written reports on behalf of the Canadian Beef Information Center. She joined us from the Bahamas for the show.

We heard a lot of conflicting opinions about how to get your B-12. So we decided to ask Brianne MacKenzie for some impartial advice on the best sources. She's a registered dietitian who works with Cleveland Clinic Canada.


Last Word

All this talk about the importance of Vitamin B-12 and the challenges vegetarians and vegans face in making sure they get enough of it, got us thinking about an iconic character in cinematic history. Because when you put your brain to it, maybe the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz is a Vegan. After all, he's made of straw, and he spends his days guarding a vegetable patch. And maybe -- just maybe -- all he was really suffering from was a lack of B-12.

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