Winter 2012 Newsletter – Food Safety

Householder 4: Food SafetyEverywhere I go in Canada, there is a movement for local food – healthy food – food security.  Nowhere is that movement stronger than here in Saanich-Gulf Islands. We are blessed with some unbeatable natural advantages. We have a long growing season, dedicated farmers, Agricultural Land Reserves to ensure local farming can continue, a lively group of non-government groups promoting local food, and a vast army of loyal supporters of organic local markets.

There are a zillion reasons to support local agriculture – reducing greenhouse gases (shipping apples to BC from New Zealand doesn’t seem to make any sense), supporting our local economy, being sure our children are eating healthy food, taking good care of the land on which it is grown.  And now we have another reason. The E.coli outbreak at the XL slaughter house in Brooks, Alberta, shown a spotlight on the risks of going for the opposite of local — one giant facility slaughtering up to 5,000 cattle a day.

I had a great time at an auction on Salt Spring Island this fall to support the building of a local abattoir. The local abattoir is needed to allow the production of Salt Spring Island lamb. The alternative is to add the huge financial burden of trucking the lambs by ferry to an abattoir up island. Considering I became a vegetarian when I was eight and adopted a pet lamb, I never really saw myself as someone willing to donate for an abattoir. However, with what is going on in the increasingly industrialized, corporate concentrated world of food production, I am ready to chain myself to the next cannery or abattoir I see being shut down. Of course, food contamination can occur in large or small operations. But in small operations, the impact is limited and local and quickly traced. Public health was compromised in the XL case because the key federal agency took nearly two weeks to sort out what products were contaminated and because the scale of the outfit made them hesitate for fear of undermining the image of Canadian beef. We need to fight for local agriculture, for local farmers making a decent living and to assure Canadians that the food we put on the table is safe.   

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.

In This Issue…