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Man. ag department to handle food inspections

Manitoba’s agriculture department would take over responsibility from public health officials for inspections of the province’s food processing, distribution and warehousing businesses under legislation introduced Wednesday.

“This act will strengthen the food safety system in Manitoba and provide the necessary authority for our province to work co-operatively with food industry partners and the federal government,” Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said in a release.

Specifically, the province’s proposed Food Safety and Related Amendments Act would keep public health officials, who work for the provincial departments of health and healthy living, in charge of inspections at the restaurant and retail level.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) and the province’s Public Health Division would thus work co-operatively to ensure any food safety issues at any point in the food system are addressed, the province said.

The province’s current legislation deals more with on-farm food safety issues, as well as safe livestock and livestock products, and the dairy industry.

The new act, however, would also require operators of food premises to ensure that food is safe and that unsafe food is not sold or distributed, and provide for recall orders as well as orders that establish control areas to contain food safety risks.

It would also set up a licensing process for food premises within MAFRI’s mandate and allow for a public registry of licensed food premises.

The new act would enable the appointment and designation of inspectors, and provide for entry to and inspection of food facilities. MAFRI inspectors would have authority to seize and destroy or dispose of food and other things that pose a food safety risk, or food that does not meet food safety standards. The inspectors would also be able to issue orders in relation to food safety risks and non-compliance with the act, the province said.

The act as proposed would also require food premises operators to report food safety risks, allow employees of food premises to report food safety risks, and protect those employees from “retaliation.”

The new act would also provide the power to impose fines of up to $50,000 and/or six months in jail for individuals and up to $500,000 for corporations that fail to comply with safe food regulations.

Amendments would also allow the ag minister to “plan for and deal with significant disruptions in Manitoba’s food supply caused by major emergencies such as a pandemic.”

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