Federal food-safety legislation gets the green light

Cattle are shown in a feedlot at Lakeside feedyards near XL Foods plant shown in Brooks, Alberta,...

Cattle are shown in a feedlot at Lakeside feedyards near XL Foods plant shown in Brooks, Alberta, about 200 km east of Calgary.
The XL Foods Brooks plant, which processes about a third of Canada's beef, had its licence suspended Sept. 27 in the midst of a massive recall on meat products due to potential E. coli contamination that is now estimated to include between 1,700 and 1,800 items.(JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY)

Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

OTTAWA - All parties supported and passed a government food-safety bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday, but opposition MPs still want an external audit of the system - a measure recommended after the 2008 listeria crisis.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says new regulations in the Safe Food for Canadians Act, including an inspection regime, more food traceability and an ability to force food producers to provide standardized information on a set timeline, will make the food system "safer."

The legislation's passage follows the largest beef recall in Canadian history, which was sparked by E. coli contamination at Alberta's XL Foods.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) first initiated a recall on beef from XL Foods in Brooks, Alta., on Sept. 16, after stopping the company from exporting meat to the U.S. on Sept. 13. The plant's license was subsequently suspended Sept. 27, but operations have since resumed.

The bill, however, was first introduced in the Senate well before the calamity.

"It also allows us to ask for information from a company in a much more timely way and in a format that is much more usable," Ritz told reporters on Tuesday before the vote. "This gives us a better handle on who has got what and where it went."

The NDP and the Liberals have said an independent audit of Canada's food-safety system is still needed to examine resources and demands.

Sheila Weatherhill, an investigator tasked with probing the 2008 listeria crisis, recommended an independent audit, but in 2010 former CFIA president Carole Swan said the department completed a "review."


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