The Office of the Inspector General says the United States auditors who check up on Canadian meat-packing plants and laboratories are not doing an adequate job.
After a detailed check on the audits conducted in all countries shipping meat to the United States, the Office of the Inspector General has made eight recommendations for improvements.
In the case of Canada, the inspectors found that auditors did not always check all of the items on a list they are supposed to fill out for each packing plant and laboratory they audit.
They also found that not all auditors have been applying the same criteria and standards. For example, one was satisfied with checking 30 days of records, another checked 90 days.
In general, the Office of the Inspector General said the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service needs to spell out more specific and detailed requirements and standards for audits.
Occasionally U.S. inspectors, who tour Canadian plants in the company of head-office staff from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, find enough faults that they ban sales from the facility to the U.S.
In almost all cases, the plants under U.S. bans continue supplying Canadian clients.
Sometimes they are able to fix the issues raised by the inspectors within a day or week, but there have also been times when major repairs that take longer have been necessary and Canadian officials have allowed production to continue.
The U.S. audits are for two basic criteria – first, whether the foreign country’s standards are equivalent with U.S. standards, and second, whether the plant or lab being inspected lives up to the foreign country’s standards.