Summer heat brings food safety to mind

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder urges the federal government to investigate and address causes as antibiotic resistance grows.

Jean Crowder

As summer approaches, backyard cooks are bringing out the barbecues and getting them ready.

There is no better time to think about food safety, and New Democrats want to make sure the food you buy is safe to eat.

For decades, Canadians have depended on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to certify that food is fit for human consumption.

For example, they recently found phenylbutazone, normally used to treat horses, in some beef approved for sale in Quebec.

Phenylbutazone, or bute, is not approved for use in beef cattle because even residual amounts can be toxic to humans.

However, the CFIA only conducts random tests for drug residues, testing approximately 160,000 samples from domestic and imported beef, pork, dairy, eggs, honey, fruit and vegetables each year.

Since the number of cattle slaughtered last year in Canada was 2,889,627, that is a relatively small sampling size.

So it is hard for us to know just how often drug residues are present in our food.

This issue is top of mind for me after reading a recent report from the Ontario Medical Association that found that antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming more frequent and difficult to treat.

In intensive operations, antibiotics may be used for the regular use of treating illness and disease but also to prevent illness in otherwise healthy animals and to promote growth. This may lead to resistance in both animal and human populations and increased health care costs for all Canadians — estimated at $200 million annually.

Presently, the growing problem of antibiotic resistance caused by the misuse and misapplication of antibiotics has led organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) to express deep concerns about the future of effective antibiotic treatments without government action.

To address these concerns, New Democrats believe an expert national commission should immediately be struck to evaluate the main causes of antibiotic resistance, including prescribing practices, and develop recommendations to address this emerging threat to public health.

The commission, bridging a dual mandate of medical and agricultural fields of expertise, would address scientific evidence that addresses the link between the use of antibiotics in the food supply to increased incidences of antibiotic resistance.

I hope you agree this is a concern for all Canadians and write to the Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, to urge her to take action. Her e-mail  is leona.aglukkaq@parl.gc.ca.

You can also contact her by regular mail at House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A 0A6.