Federal budget cuts in Canada are putting public health at risk, says the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Canada’s agriculture union is led by Bob Kingston. He says that slaughter facilities in the Canadian province of Manitoba are severely understaffed, regularly operating with one-third fewer inspectors than required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The shortage has been so dire, says Kingston, that Manitoba’s meat inspection plants are borrowing inspectors from other provinces to meet inspection needs. 

Staffing levels among Ontario’s inspectors are also reportedly low. And it’s only expected to worsen as Canada’s federal government has decided to slash $35 million from the CFIA’s budget. Kingston says this equates to 273 fewer inspectors across all of Canada by 2018.

"Canadians do not trust the food industry to police its own safety practices, yet the government is relying more heavily on food-production companies to self-police.” Kingston predicts that, “Without action to address the inspection shortage, it is just a matter of time before the next major food-borne illness outbreak occurs."

Animal welfare is also at risk, says Kingston.

Legally, veterinarians are required to be present during the slaughtering process. Historically, the CFIA has assigned one veterinarian per facility. Veterinarians are now being assigned to more than one facility, leaving some slaughter proceedings to go forth without an available veterinarian to oversee them.

The CFIA is “basically ignoring their own requirement,” says Kingston.

The CFIA has not yet responded to Kingston's comments on behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.