OTTAWA - The Harper government says it's making "considerable progress" implementing recommendations to prevent another deadly outbreak of listeriosis, but the union representing food inspectors isn't buying it.
The Progress on Food Safety report, released with no fanfare Thursday afternoon, says $88 million has been poured into the Canadian Food Inspection Agency since an independent investigator called for a series of improvements one year ago.
Sheila Weatherill's investigation called on Ottawa to simplify and modernize federal food-safety legislation and regulations, a process that is still underway.
Thursday's progress report says legislation and regulations are being developed and analysed.
But the Agriculture Union-Public Service Alliance of Canada says the problems go much deeper than the legislative framework.
Union president Bob Kingston says many of the shortcomings that contributed to the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis disaster two years ago continue to plague the Canadian meat inspection system today.
Twenty-three people died in the 2008 outbreak.
Kingston says the internal assessment proves the number of meat inspectors is still inadequate and the workload imposed by a new inspection system so great that verification tasks cannot be completed.
Kingston says there are also questions about the training of inspectors.
"The federal government owes consumers some answers about why these problems have been allowed to persist and how they will be addressed," he said in a written statement.
"Instead, the federal government served up more spin and exaggeration.”
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government was hiring 170 new inspectors to fill gaps in its inspection systems.
"These reports show our government is making progress on all 57 recommendations of the independent investigator," he said in an email sent to The Canadian Press Friday night.
Ritz added the government would use its investments to implement the report's recommendations and provide agencies like CFIA and Health Canada tools to improve food safety for all Canadians.