Auditor general calls for stronger processes to reduce risk of foodborne illness (food poisoning)29 November 2016
FREDERICTON (GNB) – Auditor General Kim MacPherson, in her latest audit, reported numerous deficiencies in meat safety and the food premises program. Her report was tabled today in the legislative assembly.
Unsafe food practices are a factor in foodborne illnesses, commonly known as food poisoning, of an estimated four million Canadians (one in eight) per year. To address this, the Department of Health manages a food premises program which, among many things, requires operators of abattoirs (slaughterhouses), butcher shops, grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises to obtain a licence to operate in the province.
The audit found that, while the department has processes to monitor and enforce policies to ensure the safety of meat for public consumption, the processes are not consistently followed. As well, the food premises program is not fully complying with the regulation, leading to unaddressed food safety risks. Therefore, in certain circumstances, the public could be at heightened risk of food poisoning.
The auditor general also found other areas needing improvement.
“Penalties for operators who fail to comply with the standards are minimal,” said MacPherson. “There needs to be serious ramifications or consequences for operators who repeatedly have their licence revoked.
“Also, posting inspection results on the department’s website should be enhanced by posting inspection reports for all food premises over a two-year period,” MacPherson said. “The public would be better informed by having this enhanced inspection history available.”
MacPherson made 23 recommendations to the Department of Health which include:
- ensuring applicants comply with the food premises standards prior to issuing licences;
- properly conducting and documenting inspections to monitor operators’ compliance with the food premises standards;
- following proper procedures consistently when revoking a food premises licence;
- completing risk assessments and updating them annually to determine the proper inspection frequency for food premises;
- establishing a standard method for maintaining consistent, reliable and useful information for the food premises program; and
- implementing quality assurance practices to ensure risk areas are subject to quality assurance monitoring.
MacPherson’s report also contains photos of surprising observations at a licensed food premises. Images from the report are available on the auditor general’s website.
The chapter on the Food Premises Program - Meat Safety can be found in Volume III of the 2016 Auditor General Report, which also contains followup work on prior years’ performance audit recommendations. Volume IV, also released today, presents matters arising from the annual financial audit of the province and Crown agencies. These volumes and one-page summaries for select chapters are available online.