Listeriosis toll grows, number of food inspectors shrinks

August 27, 2008

One of the key initiatives of neo-liberalism and the so-called “Washington consensus” is massive deregulation. It is often couched as “self-regulation” – the notion that we hand over more and more regulation to the companies that we used to regulate through government agencies. It is notoriously ineffective and in combination with huge cuts to the number of regulators still employed by government, it means that the public is at ever-greater risk from a wide variety of threats. The listeriosis outbreak has led to twelve deaths with more added every few hours. At the same time as our most vulnerable citizens are dying or getting extremely ill, a whistle blower has revealed that things are about to get worse: food safety will be put increasingly in the hands of firms like Maple Leaf which is already cutting corners. In addition, the union representing food safety inspectors has stated that the Harper government has also slashed the number of inspectors still working. This government plans to further deregulate food safety, right at the time when a dozen people – and counting – have died from tainted meat.

So what can we Canadians do?

As a start, write a letter demanding the government: 1) hold a public inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak and its causes, 2) abandon plans for so-called self-regulation of the food industry and 3) increase the budget for inspections to a level that guarantees the safety of Canadians.

I am in the process of doing this.

On the immediate personal level, I’ve gone through my fridge with a fine-tooth comb with the updated (long and growing) list in hand and threw out a couple of more items, just to be on the safe side. I seldom purchase processed meats, but a few occasionally do make it into the grocery basket. My elderly uncle who lives with me likes them. The updated list of tainted items is taped to my fridge door. It is several pages long and contains items most of us would not have associated with Maple Leaf foods. Deli meats and sausages from companies like Schneiders, Shopsy’s, Bittners, Burns and others. Who would have thought that these also came off the assembly lines at the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto?

A Star blogs Political Decoder was wondering the same thing in this post. Here is an excerpt:

Well, I guess JM Schneider has left the smokehouse. At Maple Leaf Foods, CEO MIchael McCain has apologized for the tainted meat related to the outbreak of listeriosis, saying his company will do better in future. Perhaps it’s time for advertisers to do better by giving consumers a break.

You’ve probably seen Schneiders’ folksy TV ads that feature a smokehouse employee who says his wife always complains about the smell in this clothes – but, hey, that’s the price of quality. The ad is shot like an old-time news reel showing employees working together and the old man himself saying nothing but the best gets past him. Okay, nobody thinks it’s a genuine 1920s newsreel, but we do at least expect Schneiders meats come from a Schneiders plant where, in a modern age, employees show the same dedication as in the past. That’s the point of the ad: times change, dedication remains the same.

But no. We find out with this tainted meat scandal at least some of Schneiders meat comes off assembly lines at the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto. It’s the plant linked to meats contaminated with the listeria bacteria, with Schneiders products on the recall list.


Read this Political Decoder (Star blogs) post: Tainted meat at Maple Leaf: Where’s old man Schneider when you need him?

Read Star HealthZone article and related articles here: Tainted meat toll grows

Recalled products list as of August 25

Integrate This! – SPP Watch Update

August 2, 2008

SPP Watch

SPP WATCH makes the links between daily news items, new government initiatives and the ongoing Security and Prosperity Partnership talks between Canada, Mexico and the United States. As well as regular SPP updates, we will continue to post new reports, interviews and multimedia presentations critical of what is sometimes called the “deep integration” of North America.

The Integrate This website will slow down over the summer as staff take their annual vacations and as Stuart Trew, the Council of Canadians researcher/writer who has been administering the site’s content, heads to Toronto to become the Council’s regional organizer for Ontario-Québec. We will continue to post news articles and important reports but not as frequently as we have been over the past eight months.

Harper launches major assault on food safety, fires government scientist; regulatory harmonization blamed
The extent of Harper’s current assault on Canada’s food and drug inspection system is about to dwarf any previous concerns we had with the regulatory harmonization of pesticide residues. The Prime Minister is simultaneously eliminating funding for BSE testing for Canadian producers, offloading federal research facilities to the private sector and academia, and firing government scientists who dare stand up against this widespread deregulation for the sake of corporate profits.

What’s good for U.S. energy security is good for the SPP
A recent U.S. statement confirms the ongoing push for greater North American energy integration that leaves Canada wide open for the worst of an energy gold rush.   In addressing the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington DC, Daniel Sullivan (Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs) calls for more energy integration and dependence on market-based solutions in the face of rising oil and gas prices and the havoc this is wreaking on the U.S. economy.

Majority of Canadians would renegotiate NAFTA, says Angus Reid poll
You’d never know it from the lengths our federal and provincial governments are going to in defence of NAFTA, but most Canadians think we should renegotiate the free trade and investment pact, says a new poll by Angust Reid.

Plan Mexico, SPP about “armouring NAFTA,” says Avi Lewis
Journalist and human rights activist Avi Lewis, commented on Plan Mexico and the Security and Prosperity Partnership this week on U.S. radio program Democracy Now.

Put on the EDL brakes
From the speed at which provinces are introducing so-called enhanced driver’s licences, you’d think they were a universally acclaimed technology (Passport Alternative Approved In Sask. – B.C. and online editions, July 31). But as a public forum in Toronto this month showed, there is much skepticism among Canada’s privacy commissioners, consumer groups and the public.

Industry Week magazine contrasts European vs. SPP approach to chemicals regulation
A new article in Industry Week magazine offers an interesting and brief explanation of Europe’s new chemicals regulation laws (the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) legislation), and how they differ from the North American approach being developed through the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

“Any harsh treatment endured by Khadr is Canada’s responsibility,” says lawyer Kuebler
As reported by CTV this week, new documents and video footage “suggest Canada was aware of the harsh treatment that Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr was being subjected to in Guantanamo Bay at the hands of U.S. military interrogators.” But Prime Minister Harper still says the government knew nothing and has no intention of interfering, or in asking that Khadr be allowed to return to Canada.

For more information on the SPP, please visit

Action Alert: Lakes across Canada being turned into mine dump sites!

June 18, 2008

Earlier yesterday I posted an Action Alert about a proposed radioactive waste dump in the Great Lakes. Then last night while watching The National on CBC, I saw the news that lakes across Canada face being turned into mine dump sites. “16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly “reclassified” as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.”

Can you believe this?? First our Great Lakes are being turned into dump sites for radioactive waste, then our smaller lakes across the country face being dumping sites for mines!

Have we Canadians become such apathetic sheeple that our governments figure we won’t care if they allow our precious water — our life blood, necessary for our survival and our land which grows the food to feed us — to be used as industrial waste dumps? All to profit themselves and their mining corporation lobbyist friends? In the words of Chad Griffiths, a local environmentalist who attended the Long Harbour meeting: “It’s a trend. It’s an open season on Canadian water”.

Canadians must NOT stay silent about the further poisoning of our dwindling fresh water!! People, wake up!!! Let the politicians know that this is unacceptable!!! What will it take to make you shout out your anger? What will it take to wake you up? Will you wait until there’s not a drop of drinkable water left or an acre of un-poisoned, arable land remaining? Will you wait until then???

Under the Fisheries Act, it’s illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. But, under a little-known subsection known as Schedule Two of the mining effluent regulations, federal bureaucrats can redefine lakes as “tailings impoundment areas.”

That means mining companies don’t need to build containment ponds for toxic mine tailings.

CBC News visited two examples of Schedule Two lakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Vale Inco company wants to use a prime destination for fishermen known as Sandy Pond to hold tailings from a nickel processing plant.

In northern B.C., Imperial Metals plans to enclose a remote watershed valley to hold tailings from a gold and copper mine. The valley lies in what the native Tahltan people call the “Sacred Headwaters” of three major salmon rivers. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the dump site.

Read more about this on

I am angry beyond words…

VIDEO: Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule

March 4, 2008

Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule

I urge ALL Canadians who care about our democracy and sovereignty to watch this outstanding video. All it takes is 10 minutes of your time.

10 minutes

Also at

Could be subtitled “Giving Away Canada’s Sovereignty”

Support Environmental Defence to urge Canada to ban Bisphenol A!

July 17, 2007

Please take action in support of Environmental Defence on this important issue concerning Bisphenol A, which is a highly toxic chemical that is in 1 out of 3 cans of baby formula — and it’s also in a wide array of foods that we eat!

I am writing to you today to seek your help in urging Canada to ban a highly toxic chemical called Bisphenol A from food and beverage containers. While some countries have stepped up to tackle toxic pollution, Canada continues to lag behind. Our federal government is doing little to stop Bisphenol A from harming the health of Canadian families.

Bisphenol A is proven to be toxic at low doses and shockingly, it’s in a wide range of foods that we eat.

It’s in foods like ravioli, chicken soup and even infant formula. It can be found in just about anything that comes in food and beverage cans, hard plastic water containers and baby bottles.

The health risks of Bisphenol A include prostate and breast cancer, immune system dysfunction, early puberty in females, and higher rates of miscarriage. New studies with similar findings of the substance’s toxicity are being published almost every month.

You can visit our Toxic Nation website to read up on how else Bisphenol A is bad for us all, and to find alternatives.

Environmental Defence needs your help to get this toxic chemical banned. Read on to find out what you can do. Despite more than 130 peer-reviewed studies showing that it’s toxic, the federal government is not acting to stop Bisphenol A from harming your health .

In fact, a news article in the Globe and Mail last week uncovered that the Health Canada official leading the federal review of Bisphenol A recently spoke at a medical conference and suggested that Bisphenol A is no more harmful than tofu . Within hours of the story being published, Health Canada reassigned the official. To ensure the public interest is upheld, Environmental Defence called on Health Canada to carry out an independent audit of all officials leading the review of key chemicals. You can read the news release outlining our concerns.

You can make a difference today by helping us reach our goal to get Bisphenol A phased out of food and beverage containers within one year.

  1. Make a Donation: Send your gift of $35, $60, or $100 that will go immediately to our campaign to phase out Bisphenol A.
  2. Take Action: Help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures by visiting and by signing our petition to call on Environment Minister John Baird and Health Minister Tony Clement to take immediate action on Bisphenol A.
  3. Become a Defender of the Environment: with a small monthly pledge, you will join our core group of supporters that can be relied on to preserve our fragile environment. View the benefits of pledging monthly.

You can be sure that Environmental Defence delivers results.

Because of support from people like you, we exposed that Canadians young and old are polluted with harmful toxic chemicals. The federal government listened . Because of our Toxic Nation campaign, the federal government announced $300 million to better regulate toxic chemicals.

We run hard-hitting campaigns to get all levels of government to create policies that will better protect the environment and your health — but our success depends on you.

So please, take action today to help get Bisphenol A eliminated and protect the health of all Canadians!


Rick Smith, PhD.
Executive Director
Environmental Defence

P.S. Please support this important campaign and make a donation today. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Another food alert: sesame seeds!

July 15, 2007

Contaminated pet food, poisoned toothpaste, tainted beer, and now another food alert: this time it’s sesame seeds which may contain salmonella sold in bulk in some stores in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The stores include the reputable Sobey’s and A & P.  If this keeps up, we’ll have to form neighbourhood food growing co-ops, as more and more of our food becomes contaminated or suspect. Same goes for our clothing and toiletries:  we’ll have to make our own. Get back to basics, buy local, forego the exotic imports that we’ve grown so accustomed to.  Back in the ‘old country’ during the height of the Cold War, we did just that. Yet we survived.


People should not eat certain sesame seeds sold in bulk in some stores in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia because they may be contaminated with salmonella, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has warned.