Health Canada may soon protect you from the ravages of butterfish

Now on one team RGBStock photo/ nella

Now on one team
RGBStock photo/ nella

According to an announcement last week, the dysfunctional relationship between  Health Canada  and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) may be finally coming to an end.

It’s about time.

The announcement on Health Canada’s website reads, “The CFIA has now joined Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in reporting to the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health.

This reorganization will strengthen Canada’s food safety system by bringing all three authorities responsible for food safety under one Minister. This will ensure clear focus, easy collaboration, and timely communication with Canadians when it comes to food safety. This change also further underscores the CFIA’s commitment to food safety as a top priority.”

True, it wasn’t that long ago I called out on Health Canada and the CFIA’s relationship  in an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, When that tuna isn’t really tuna where I stated, “Government dysfunction is nothing new here in Canada. But when it occurs as a result of a basic governmental design flaw, isn’t it time for some reorganization in Ottawa?”

There were weeks of  ongoing emails back and forth between myself, Health Canada and the CFIA where I continued to ask how it was possible that the CFIA was not enforcing Health Canada’s regulations dealing with seafood mislabelling in restaurants.

The issue was about the horrible gastrointestinal consequences of eating escolar and the fact that escolar is usually labelled as butterfish or white tuna on restaurant menus. Escolar rarely appears in print for diners too see.

When there appeared to be inaction on the part of the CFIA, I then went back to Health Canada, who confirmed that escolar cannot be mislabelled. Leslie Meerburg, senior media relations adviser at Health Canada stated, “If you have questions about how this is enforced, I will unfortunately have to defer back to the CFIA, as CFIA is responsible for enforcement of these laws.”

The CFIA would do nothing and the office of the The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, who was in charge of the CFIA at the time,  never provided a comment after countless phone calls and emails about the lack of enforcement of  Health Canada’s regulations.

I am not alone in suffering through the previous disconnect between Health Canada and the CFIA.  It’s been pointed out repeatedly, at one time or another.

This reorganization will now make the CFIA accountable for enforcement and will help to protect Canadians.

Now if only something could be done about  the dysfunction between Health Canada and the Natural Health Products Directorate.

I can dream can’t I?

Up next:   Who is checking the purity of your natural health products?

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Categories: Food Safety, Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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