Recall fuels fresh debate in House

'The real issue here is, when does the consumer have a right to know?'

The Canadian Press / Kamloops Daily News
October 2, 2012 01:00 AM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds Tuesday to a question in the House of Commons.

The nationwide beef recall, which has been expanded several times over the past two weeks, has raised awareness of food safety issues in Canada as well as fears over the growing size and scope of the recall.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper endured more question-period beef broadsides Tuesday from both the NDP and the Liberals.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair accused Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz of blaming bureaucrats, while interim Liberal leader Bob Rae demanded to know why it took the government so long to warn Canadian consumers.

"On this particular case, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency acted to contain contaminated product, beginning on September 4 and has been acting ever since then," Harper said in the House.

"The plant will remain shut down until the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is convinced that it is safe to operate."

The Conservatives have added 700 "net new" food inspectors since first taking office in 2006, he added.

After question period, Rae said the government's first responsibility was to alert the public to a potential health hazard.

"The real issue here is, when does the consumer have a right to know? When should the consumer be informed?"

He acknowledged governments can't be in the business of creating panic, "but if the consumer really is the first priority, why is the consumer the last to know?"

Rae said the answer should be coming from Harper and his agriculture minister, "not from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"We wouldn't know a soul of who those people are."

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