Opposition warns food safety cuts could lead to another listeriosis crisis

·Politics Reporter

The ax fell Wednesday at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as about 100 food safety inspectors were told their jobs are on the line.

According to the NDP, Canadians will now have to worry whether or not the food they purchase is safe to eat.

"These cuts are just another scary reminder that Conservatives care more about funding their backwards priorities rather than protecting Canadians' safety and trust in the food industry," said Malcolm Allen, NDP Critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food in a statement released Wednesday.

"These cuts put Canadians' lives at risk. We could have another listeriosis crisis on our hands. People could get sick, or worse, they could lose their lives."

The 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak, which killed 22 Canadians, forced the Conservatives to hire an additional 70 food inspectors to oversee ready-to-eat meat production facilities.

Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says these layoffs are clearly a reversal of that positive step.

"It's impossible to cut that many people and not affect food safety," he told the Globe and Mail.

In a statement Wednesday, Kingston continued his criticism of the layoffs.

"This decision will make the inspector shortage worse, not better. And because the government has failed to consult its own inspectors, they are cutting food safety blindly with little understanding of the consequences," he said.

Food inspectors were not the only ones to receive bad news on Wednesday.

According to CBC News, more than 5,500 federal service employees were notified that their jobs are on the line.

More than 2,000 of the jobs are located in Ottawa. The Canada Border Services Agency has 1,137 employees that received notices and other departments with high numbers of affected PSAC members include Health Canada (715), Agriculture Canada (689), the Public Health Agency of Canada (483) and the Canadian International Development Agency (534).

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