Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz accused opposition MPs of "fear mongering" Monday as MPs debated a food safety bill that passed in the Senate last week.
Discussion of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, a bill the Conservatives tabled in the Senate last spring, comes as opposition MPs have been hammering the government on the largest meat recall in Canadian history.
The NDP and Liberals say the feds should have stepped in sooner to shut down XL Foods, an Alberta-based plant at the centre of the massive recall.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency initiated a recall of the company's beef on Sept. 16, after it stopped XL Foods from exporting meat to the U.S. on Sept. 13.
About 1,800 products from the company have now been pulled across the country and CFIA has said the plant will destroy the recalled meat. There are 16 confirmed cases of illness from E. coli traced back to food produced at XL.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has called for Ritz to resign over the recall and his party has demanded a public inquiry to investigate what happened at the plant.
CFIA president George Da Pont has said XL didn't conduct a "trend analysis" required to be provided to department inspectors.
Ritz, who served as agriculture minister during the 2008 Listeria crisis that originated at Maple Leaf Foods, maintains the feds have done everything they could to prioritize Canadians' safety and consumer confidence during the recall.
Ritz is now pushing for the House to support the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which is currently at second reading in the Commons.
The minister says the legislation will give meat inspectors more power to compel food producers to provide standardized information.
The NDP has signalled it supports moving the bill to a parliamentary committee for study but it wants the government to launch an audit of Canada's food safety system immediately.