Alberta’s provincial meat inspectors to train for federal duty

Provincial inspectors to be seconded to CFIA-inspected packers

Provincial meat inspectors in Alberta could soon be seconded to federally inspected packing plants under a new work-sharing arrangement between the province and Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The federal and Alberta governments announced Wednesday they would partner to “increase food inspector capacity” in the province and thus “ensure the continuous operation of Alberta’s food supply chain.”

Training is to begin “soon” that would allow provincial meat inspectors to be deployed into “high-priority” federally licensed plants in Alberta, they said.

CFIA regulates and inspects about 74 slaughter, processing and meat storage facilities in the province, among them two of the biggest beef packing plants in Canada — the Cargill facility at High River and the JBS plant at Brooks.

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The new work-sharing plan comes in the wake of “increased demand” on the processing industry as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as consumers stockpile food.

At the same time, the federal government has identified “challenges around human resources at CFIA, mainly for our inspectors,” as federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said March 21.

CFIA, in a separate statement March 23, said it has activated its “business continuity plan” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan calls for “a temporary suspension of low-risk activities” in favour of priorities such as inspection services, food safety investigations and recalls and animal disease investigations.

Bibeau said at the time her department would be consulting the provinces on how they can share resources, such as provincial inspectors, and “find different ways to make (the process) easier and faster,” and that CFIA would also call back recently-retired inspectors.

The Alberta and federal governments said Wednesday the redeployments of provincial inspectors “will ensure the continued capability to provide meat inspections in the province and keep food products on shelves.”

Also, the province said Wednesday, “steps have been taken to increase provincial inspector capacity by bringing back retired inspectors.”

“By working together, our governments have ensured we have a COVID-19 contingency plan for inspection services,” Bibeau said in Wednesday’s release.

“It is critical for Alberta families, our food supply and to our economy that the meat industry operates at its maximum capacity,” provincial Ag Minister Devin Dreeshen said in the same release. “We are working with the CFIA to integrate our provincial inspectors into federally licenced plants to help keep Albertans fed.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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