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Food safety questioned

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It’s also an overwhelming job. Most grocery store chains have an inventory of more than 20,000 items, most of which are food related.

To keep the public informed, the EDC is lobbying Health Canada to release all of its food safety data, and to update the information regularly. They claim that the government has 30 years of reports and studies in its vaults that should be shared with everyone, not just CFIA scientists.

"Fixing this problem begins with government giving Canadians real information," said Mausberg. "That means more transparency and more testing."

EDC also believes that the government’s testing procedures are dated because Health Canada tests food based on data that is 30 years old that was compiled from 1970 to 1972 in a Nutrition Canada survey. Mausberg believes our eating habits have changed considerably in that time, and that new data is necessary to determine what’s safe.

For example, the government may have determined that a certain amount of a given pesticide is acceptable for consumption. What they don’t take into account is the fact that we could be eating more of the products that the pesticides are used on. In some cases this could put us over the safe limit, and lead to unsafe concentrations of toxins in our bodies.

The revelation about lead in our syrup and growth drugs in our eggs couldn’t have come at a worse time for Lyle Vanclief, the federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. In June of 2001, the federal government announced a campaign with the provincial agriculture ministers to brand Canadian food as "number one in the world in food safety and environmentally sound production, and innovation," said Vanclief.

The announcement also came prior to the 2002 Canadian Food & Beverage Show, which attracts international food buyers from five continents.

"The goal is to promote the sale and export of Canadian foodservice products and familiarize international buyers with the breadth, safety and high quality of Canadian agri-food products," said Ezio Di Emanuele, the acting regional director for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

While not all of EDC’s discoveries are Made-In-Canada products, it does raise the question of how much the public has the right to know. It seems unethical to market our food internationally as being safe, while keeping Canadians in the dark about the safety of their own food.

The CFIA does issue frequent food recalls when they feel there is a serious problem. According to their Web site, there have been five recalls in the first two weeks of February: