Uninspected meat trucks enter Canada from USA

Canadians are wondering if meat from the United States is safe after learning 70 truckloads have evaded border inspections since January.  That’s how many truckloads the Windsor Star newspaper said had risked fines to cross the border before inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) showed up for their new 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift times.
The new daylight only inspections began Jan. 4.  The Star went public with its truck count on Feb. 19. Food entering Canada outside of those hours designated for inspection must wait until an inspector is scheduled to report for work before an inspection can take place and the truck can proceed to its destination.  As a consequence, many trucks choose to ignore the regulation and pass on through to Canada with their loads.

border-crossing-featured.jpgIn the U.S., every truck entering the country with food destined for its citizens’ dinner plates is inspected. “In the States if you miss going to an inspection, your fine is three times the load you’re carrying,” said Marchuk, president of Windsor Freezer Services Ltd.  Together with Border City Storage, Windsor Freezer Services is responsible for conducting the import inspections in Windsor.  “Nobody skips inspections in the States because it’s too risky,” Marchuk concluded.

In contrast, Canadian fines are considered a joke since there is no real consequence for breaking the law.

The border inspection companies have joined New Democrat Border Critic Brian Masse–who discovered the flaw in the border inspection at Windsor–in calling on the federal government to implement stiffer penalties for long haul truckers who avoid inspection. They would like to see the Canadian policies and fines align with the US policies and ensure the Canadian public that every truck carrying meat be inspected.

Food safety has been at the forefront of Canadian minds since August of 2008, when 22 mostly elderly Canadians died during a listeria outbreak traced to the consumption of packaged deli meats made at a Maple Leaf Foods plant, despite the fact the company recalled 23 packaged meat products. Since this event, Canadians were expecting the food inspection regulations to become more stringent and effective, not to mention enforceable.

“Canada’s imported meat inspection regime needs to be strengthened immediately,” said Kam Rampersaud from Border City Storage Ltd. (Canada). “US producers are becoming increasingly aware of the lax inspection standards at the Canadian border,” he warned.

“There is something desperately ironic about the situation where one government agency goes overboard with a regulatory regime that seemingly has nothing to do with actual food safety but that imposes enormous costs on local small abattoirs and butcher shops while at the border Canada has lost track of an estimated 70 trucks full of actual meat products selected for inspection in the last few months,” said Grant Robertson, of the National Farmers Union of Canada.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Uninspected meat trucks enter Canada from USA

  1. Look, speaking as an American, there’s very little doubt as to the safety of American meat: if it’s industrial meat, whether it passes inspection or not, it’s unsafe. I don’t eat the stuff, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else eat it either. Watch Food Inc. Read Fast Food Nation, or Omnivore’s Dilemma. (And I don’t mean you personally here, Kristeva.) I like meat just fine, and eat it regularly. But you can be sure that it’s not from factory farmed animals, it doesn’t go through a (dis-)assembly-line-style “processing facility,” and it’s not injected with god-knows-what before being shrink wrapped and shipped for thousands of miles, thank you very much.

    I understand why you’d want to publicize a case like this, but covert border crossing is very, very far from the main concern with US meats. Stay away from it!

  2. I don’t know what the inspections involve on entry into canada. Check the truck temperature, maybe? I’m certain that they’re not doing pathogen tests. So the “inspection”, even if done, may not confer any advantages.

  3. Robin

    I agree with Kate.

  4. Thank you for the informative post on trailers entering Canada uninspected.

    I’ve been documenting the practice of livestock trailers entering Canada late in the night to avoid inspection as well. I’ve documented this right across Canada. It’s a huge welfare concern as trailers are routinely loaded with dying, downer animals too sick, diseased or injured to walk.

    Many hauling companies carry in-transit-mortality insurance and when the markets are suppressed, producers can often make more off an animal that is sick than one who is healthy and makes it to slaughter.

    Europe became aware of the welfare implications of such nsurance and has since made it illegal to carry in-transit-mortality insurance.

    I’ve posted your article on our website: http://www.cetfa.com. Is this acceptable to you?

    Thank you!

    Twyla Francois
    Head of Investigation
    Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals

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