September 23, 2018

Food and Water Watch Takes on Beyond the Border Pilot Program

Food & Water Watch has released a report covering their concerns about the Obama administration’s “Beyond the Border” initiative, that will reduce regulatory requirements to facilitate trade between the United States and Canada. The organization has extreme reservations about some of the policies in that initiative, especially the elimination of the border inspection program at USDA.

USDAMaple Leaf Foods is going to be one of the participants in this pilot project. Food & Water Watch says they have learned about a report from USDA inspectors at the Niagara Falls border inspection station that rejected 40,000 pounds of canned hams produced by Maple Leaf Foods, Canadian Establishment 459, on October 18, 2012. When most of the cans were opened, part of the inner can liner came loose and flakes fell on the ham. The manufacturer of the liner said, “while the liner was not designed to be eaten, it was safe to consume.” The cans were sent back to the company.

Food & Water Watch states that in November 2012, Maple Leaf Farms sent one shipment through the Niagara Falls port and another through a station in Detroit. Tony Corbo, who wrote the report, says he “suspected border shopping, a practice of trying a different port when you have trouble getting a product through.” And they sent two company representatives to watch the FSIS inspectors open the hams. In Niagara Falls, 20 out of 20 cans opened revealed flaking can liners. In addition, two of the hams had a “greasy black substance on the bottom of the cans in addition to the flaking liners.” That substance was sulfites that formed on the ham and was the cause for rejection of other canned meats from other countries.

Unfortunately, another message was being sent. On December 5, 2012, Food & Water Watch learned that “top-ranking FSIS officials sent instructions to their import inspectors that they were not to reject any future shipments of the canned hams from Maple Leaf Foods that have either the flaking liner problems or the greasy black substance because they are not food safety issues.”

Food & Water Watch then purchased their own cans from Family Dollar Stores for $3 each. They found the same problem and additional problems, including a “bluish-green substance” on one of the hams. “The Food & Water Watch office smelled like a dog kennel at feeding time. We discarded all of the canned hams because we did not consider them to be fit for either human or pet consumption,” the reports states.

The organization is urging the USDA to halt all pilots that would eliminate border inspection of Canadian meat imports. “The FSIS border inspectors have proven repeatedly that the current system is needed because it works,” they state. “In any event, Maple Leaf Foods, whose products were at the center of a foodborne illness outbreak in 2008 and implicated in the deaths of 22 Canadian consumers, has not demonstrated that it can be trusted to ship safe and wholesome products to the U.S. and should be disqualified from participating in any such pilot.”

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