NDP urges closer CFIA inspections of Clamato

Stepping into both a U.S. labour dispute and Caesar season in Canada, federal New Democrats want the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to “take extra care” in inspecting imports of Mott’s Clamato.

Ontario MP Malcolm Allen, the party’s deputy food security and agriculture critic, last week wrote to CFIA president Carole Swan to “express concerns about a potential food safety risk in a classic Canadian drink,” namely, the Bloody Caesar.

Allen and NDP leader Jack Layton have both waded into the dispute between striking members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Local 220 at the Mott’s plant at Williamson, N.Y., and their employer, Texas-based Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

Clamato, a spiced tomato juice/clam nectar drink, is combined with vodka, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to make the Caesar, a staple among Canadian cocktails since its creation over 40 years ago in Calgary.

Mott’s decision to use “untrained and inexperienced temporary workers” creates a safety risk and breach of health standards that “could have a negative impact on the quality and safety” of products shipped from the plant, Allen wrote, according to an RWDSU release Monday.

The temporary replacement workers, he wrote, are “substantially more likely to commit errors than the workers whose jobs they occupy.”

Allen, the MP for the Niagara-area riding of Welland, asked that the CFIA “take extra care” when inspecting Mott’s products from the Williamson plant.

“With patio season in full swing, Canadians deserve to know their Caesars are safe,” he wrote.

“Without the experience and training of permanent and long-term employees, we feel the safety of the products produced at this facility could be compromised,” Layton wrote Friday in a separate letter to Dr. Pepper Snapple CEO Larry Young.

Apart from Clamato, the Mott’s plant at Williamson, about 185 km east of Niagara Falls on the south shore of Lake Ontario, also produces the company’s single-serving applesauce.

Clamato was developed by what was then the Duffy Mott Co. in 1969. It was used later that year by Calgary barman Walter Chell to create a new drink to mark the opening of an Italian restaurant.

While Canada remains a major market for Clamato, it’s also popular in the U.S. Hispanic market, where the product is instead mixed with beer, the company said on its website.

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