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

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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 CBC.ca.

I am angry beyond words…


Toxic Nation E-News: the June 2008 issue from Environmental Defence

June 16, 2008

This June 2008 issue of the Toxic Nation E-Newsletter is filled with information that concerns all Canadians who are conscious about their health and environment:

Nasty Vinyl: Toxic Shower Curtians

Bisphenol A: Your Last Chance to Submit Comments

Cleaning Up The House: BPA Founds in Canadian House Dust

Help Ban Pesticides: Ontario-wide Ban Needs Your Support

Signing up/Signing off

Nasty Vinyl: Toxic Shower Curtains

New laboratory tests reveal that the “new shower curtain smell” may be toxic to our health. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains purchased at five major retailers in the U.S. all contain avoidable toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, organotins, and metals. Some of these chemicals are volatile, so they are released into the air inside our homes.

Read the full report: Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell

Download our Guide to Vinyl: shower curtains and other products

The new study reveals PVC, also known as vinyl, shower curtains can release as many as 108 VOCs. Some of these chemicals, such as ethylbenzene and cyclohexanone, are considered a human health concern under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and are associated with developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Some can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

The tests looked at the amount of chemicals released into the air when the vinyl curtains were unwrapped from their packaging. It took the curtains roughly a month to stop off-gassing their toxic chemicals, which can have an effect on your health. Some people experience nausea, headaches or are sick due to the smell of the off-gassing chemicals.

Environmental Defence is calling on the federal government to ban vinyl shower curtains and require manufacturers to switch to safer alternatives, such as cotton curtains. In addition, we demand the use of toxic chemicals released from vinyl (e.g. toluene, ethylbenzene, cyclohexanone, methyl isobutyl ketone, phenol, etc.) be regulated in consumer products.

TAKE ACTION ON TOXIC VINYL TODAY! Send a message directly to the government to ban vinyl shower curtains.

Bisphenol A: Your Last Chance to Submit Comments

Wednesday, June 18 is the last day for you and your friends to make an impact on the federal government’s decision to regulate the toxic chemical, bisphenol A (BPA). On this day the 60-day comment period on BPA closes and the government will begin reviewing the comments submitted by the Canadian public, stakeholders, and industry.

Based on Health Canada’s proposal published on April 18, it seems that the government is only interested in regulating BPA in baby bottles and infant formula. In doing so, they will be disregarding the evidence that the lining inside food cans, such as the can of soup in your kitchen cupboard, leach BPA into the contained food. A recent study by CTV and the Globe and Mail showed that higher levels of BPA were found leaching from foods cans then were detected leaching from baby bottles.

Where there is a question of potential harm to humans and the environment, as is true of BPA, we should be taking a precautionary approach instead of asking what level of risk is acceptable- a can of soup or a reusable sports bottle.

Voice your concern on BPA today! Send a message to the federal government urging them to ban BPA in food and beverage containers!

Cleaning Up The House: BPA Founds in Canadian House Dust

Increasingly, people are realizing that the air in their homes might be more hazardous then the polluted air we breathe outdoors in urban areas.

Indoor air pollutants are not regulated in Canada. This is a huge concern, given the release of toxic chemicals we are seeing from products we all have around our homes (e.g. shower curtains, miscellaneous plastic items).

Health Canada’s Indoor Air Quality website is fairly minimal, but even they list chemical pollutants from household and personal care products as major sources of indoor air pollution.

What you might be interested in is The Canadian House Dust Study. No, Health Canada is not judging our sweeping and vacuuming skills;rather they are measuring the levels of chemicals in house dust in Canadian homes.

Even more interesting, is that preliminary data from the house dust study detected bisphenol A in 99% of Canadian households, with average concentrations at 1,600 ppb (parts per billion). (Levels of BPA leaching out of foods cans and baby bottles have ranged in 5-19 ppb)

Although we are not eating dust, a sure bet is that the BPA particles go somewhere (landfill, groundwater, plants, etc.). This points to yet another indication that Canada needs stronger regulations on chemicals, particularly in consumer products, along with increased funding to support further research into the effects of environmental pollutants.

For more great reading on human health and environmental pollutants check out Environmental Health Perspectives online.

Help Ban Pesticidest: Ontario-wide Ban Needs Your Support

The Ontario-wide pesticide ban has just passed second reading. Doctors and groups across the province are working to make the ban as health-protective as possible before it receives final passage. This is our last chance to make sure this bill does everything we want it to!

Please take a minute today to send an email to the Premier of Ontario with the following message:

“I strongly support a ban on the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides, including on golf courses. We need to see a ban come into effect as soon as possible, for our health and the protection of the environment”

Premier McGuinty’s email: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Phone: (416) 325-1941

Many Thanks!

More!

Check out our latest Toxic Nation blog and comment on our Toxic Nation Forum.

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Help Environmental Defence protect people from harmful chemicals.

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Action Alert: Please sign onto “No Radioactive Waste Dump in Heart of Great Lakes”

June 16, 2008
Action Alert
Please circulate the following sign-on statement to your email lists. To sign on, simply send an email to kevin@beyondnuclear.org with your name, title, organization, and full contact information. Individuals are also welcome to sign. Please sign on by noon on Wednesday, June 18th so that we can submit our group comment to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency by the official deadline later that day.
If you’d like to submit additional comments, email them to DGR.Review@ceaa-acee.gc.ca no later than Wednesday, June 18th.
See http://www.acee-ceaa.gc.ca/050/DocHTMLContainer_e.cfm?DocumentID=26204 for additional information.
Thanks!
—Kevin Kamps, Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force
cell 240-462-3216, kevin@beyondnuclear.org
No Radioactive Waste Dump
in the Heart of the Great Lakes!
The proposal to build a deep underground dump (DUD) for radioactive wastes on the shoreline of the Great Lakes is unacceptable.  Water is the most likely dispersal medium for toxic materials in general, and for radioactive wastes in particular.
Nevertheless, that’s what is being considered at the Bruce nuclear complex on the Canadian side of Lake Huron.  The DUD would be located just over one kilometre (less than one mile) from the Lake, and would house all of the radioactive wastes from 20 commercial nuclear power reactors in Ontario – with the exception of the irradiated nuclear fuel.
It was recently reported that the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) wants to manage the DUD project.  But the NWMO deals exclusively with the long-term management of irradiated nuclear fuel, and has nothing whatever to do with other categories of nuclear waste materials.  Does the NWMO’s involvement mean that the proposed DUD will eventually become a permanent repository for high-level radioactive waste  —  making it the “Yucca Mountain” of the Great Lakes region?
The Bruce nuclear complex currently hosts nine reactors (one of them permanently shut down), with proposals for four more. This would make it the largest nuclear power complex in the world. Already there are 500 outdoor silos for the “interim storage” of irradiated nuclear fuel about one kilometre from Lake Huron, and there are plans to build 2,000 more.
Since the DUD is only 50 miles from Michigan across Lake Huron, leakage of radioactivity from the dump could directly affect tens of millions of residents in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and contaminate the drinking water in Port Huron, Sarnia, Detroit, Windsor, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Toronto and countless other communities downstream.
Thus, this DUD proposal is not just a Canadian issue, but an international one.  In 1986, Canada protested when the U.S. proposed a high-level radioactive waste dump in Vermont because it was too close to the Canadian border; that proposed dump was subsequently cancelled. Now it is time for U.S. residents to speak out. The Canadian DUD proposal sets a dangerous precedent for the establishment of perpetually hazardous facilities on the Great Lakes, and impacts people on both sides of the border.
The successful emplacement of the DUD for so-called “low” and “intermediate” level radioactive wastes from across Ontario – and potentially from the rest of Canada – will create a threat to the Great Lakes watershed for generations to come. It will also increase the likelihood of the Bruce site becoming a permanent disposal dump for high-level radioactive wastes (i.e. irradiated nuclear fuel), which would increase the risks by many orders of magnitude.
Alarming as this proposal is, the process for assessing its environmental impact is also cause for grave concern.  In Canada, environmental panels reviewing proposed nuclear facilities have always been independent of the nuclear establishment — until now.  But for the DUD, the Government of Canada intends to place the review panel under the control of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which is the regulatory authority for licensing nuclear facilities in Canada.
Six months ago, the President of the CNSC was fired by the Canadian federal government for being too strict in her enforcement of reactor safety regulations. The new CNSC President has clear instructions to fast-track all nuclear regulatory approval processes. No environmental assessment panel will be credible if it is dominated by this highly politicized regulatory agency.
Despite the conflict of interest, the CNSC stands ready to chair the environmental assessment panel and to fill two of its three positions. CNSC’s domination of the Full Panel Review is unprecedented, and will undermine the panel’s credibility. We urge CNSC’s exclusion from the Panel, so the panel’s independence is assured.
We ask that the public comment deadline be extended for six months beyond June 18th.  Given the longevity and the unprecedented nature of the hazard that the DUD represents for the entire Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as the minimal outreach to the United States and Native American/First Nations that the Canadian federal government has undertaken, this extension request is reasonable.
Sincerely,
Gordon Edwards (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Montreal, Quebec)
and Michael Keegan (Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Monroe, Michigan)
Co-Chairs
Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force
Kevin Kamps
Radioactive Waste Watchdog
Beyond Nuclear
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

Rare opportunity to meet international aboriginal leaders here to protest Barrick Gold’s abuses

May 7, 2008

I am posting this information in the hopes that a few people in the GTA and Ottawa area may be interested in meeting these folks before they return to their countries of origin. There are opportunities to meet them Wed., Thurs. and Fri. in Toronto. On Saturday they are travelling to Ottawa with a detour to meet those protesting the proposed uranium mine near Sharbot Lake. Contact Natalie (info. below) for details if you wish to meet them or offer support.

Aboriginal leaders from Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Western Shoshone territory (in Nevada) are in Toronto on a rare visit to Canada. They are heading to Ottawa on Saturday.

The Papua New Guinea contingent have flown 32 hours to get here, and risked their own safety and the safety of their families to so do. At home they have suffered outright murder (villagers shot by Barrick security) and rape of women villagers.

In all cases, sacred lands are being desecrated and massive water systems and ecosystems destroyed irreparably. Some of the water systems destroyed are so large the mine tailings can be seen in satellite photos.

Sadly, their stories were not covered by mass media outlets at the Barrick Gold Annual General Meeting yesterday even though all the leaders obtained proxies to get in and all spoke up at the meeting and told invesors what was happening to them.

By not covering their stories, the mass media in Canada are indirectly responsible for the continued murder of their people by Barrick Gold. To arrange an interview with the Papua New Guinea and Australian contingent contact Natalie Lowrey, Friends of the Earth (Australia), 416 809 2755 – natalie.lowrey@foe.org.au

To arrange an interview with the Western Shoshone contingent contact Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defence Project (USA) – 775 397 1371 – wsdp@igc.org

Below is a news story printed in the independant media which serves as an example of the kind of coverage that responsible news outlet would publish:


International Indigenous leaders attend Barrick Gold’s Shareholder’s meeting

Tuesday 6th May, 2008 at 10am

Indigenous leaders from Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United States traveled to Canada this week to attend the shareholders’ meeting of Barrick Gold to make statements against Barrick’s unregulated operations on their lands.

Complaints include the killing, rape and arbitrary detention of local village people in Papua New Guinea by Barrick security, the destruction of spiritual sites in Australia and the United States, and the pollution of water resources at all of Barrick’s mines. The tour is heading to Ottawa after the shareholders’ meeting where they have arranged meetings with members of parliament.

At Lake Cowal, Australia, Barrick is importing 6090 tonnes of sodium cyanide into the flood plain renowned for severe flooding. ‘Barrick Gold has absolutely no respect for our cultural heritage and the very essence of our cultural being is at stake,’ stated Neville ‘Chappy’ William, Wiradjuri elder and spokesperson for Mooka and Kalara United Families, the traditional owners of the Lake Cowal area. In addition to creating an open-pit mine in the ‘Sacred Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation,’ Barrick has confiscated thousands of Wiradjuri cultural objects from the mine site and refuses to return them to the traditional owners.

According to Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of the Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Papua New Guinea, ‘Barrick’s Porgera Mine is a textbook case of what can go wrong when large-scale mining confronts indigenous peoples, ignoring the impacts of its projects and resorting to goon squads when people rebel against it. This outrages the conscience of local Indigenous communities, especially when the mine is right next to our homes; my people are exposed to dangerous chemicals like cyanide and mercury; some of our people down in the tailings and waste during floods; and fishing stocks, flora and fauna are depleted down the river systems, leading to indigenous food sources being threatened.’

‘The international community has spoken quite clearly on these matters. The United States has been told on two separate occasions to cease and desist the destructive activities on Shoshone lands and Canada has been told to rein in its corporate giants like Barrick,’ stated Larson Bill, Western Shoshone Community Planner, referencing the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) in their review of Canada last year.

According to a 2005 Parliamentary Standing Committee report, ‘Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies indeveloping countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous people.’ As of 2008, these regulatory issues have yet
to be resolved.

The leaders include:

Larson R. Bill, Community Planner, Western Shoshone Defense Project, USA

Neville Williams, Mooka/Kalara United Families within the Wiradjuri Nation, Lake Cowal, Australia

Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer, Akali Tange Association, PapuaNew Guinea

Mark Ekepa, Chairman, Porgera Landowners Association,

Anga Atalu, Secretary, Porgera Landowners Association, Papua New Guinea

This effort is supported by:

ProtestBarrick.net
Western Shoshone Defence Project (USA)
Mining Watch Canada (Canada)
SaveLakeCowal.org (Australia)
Mineral Policy Institute (Australia)
Friends of the Earth (Australia)
Porgera Land Owners Association (Papua New Guinea)
Atali Tange Association (Papua New Guinea)

Contact:
Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defence Project (USA)

&nbs; 775 397 1371 – wsdp@igc.org

Natalie Lowrey, Friends of the Earth (Australia)
416 809 2755 – natalie.lowrey@foe.org.au


Canada’s water contaminated?

April 8, 2008

Canadians think that our drinking water is the safest in the world and associate unfit, contaminated water mostly with First Nations reserves. However, according to a new CMA report this is not true:

More than 1,700 boil-water advisories are in effect in communities across the country, according to a new investigative report by the Canadian Medical Association.

A boil-water advisory means that water is contaminated and unfit to drink without boiling. Often, the report says, a community’s chlorination or disinfection systems fail to work, leading to advisories.

Although boil-water advisories are often associated with native communities, 93 First Nations had advisories in place as of Feb. 29, 2008, while 1,766 advisories outside of these communities were in place in Canada at the end of the following month, the report said.
[…]

Read more here of this CBC story here: 1,775 boil-water advisories in Canada require action: report