Friday, February 1, 2013

Tunagate Mark II

The CFIA today announced that 240,000 Atlantic salmon infected with ISA have been released for sale into the Canadian market--because the US won't allow them over the border. There is apparently no science either way on the question of whether or not ISA infected fish are acceptable for human consumption. The Harper government is saying that there is no reason to worry--after all, no doctor has ever reported a problem from someone eating ISA infected salmon. Of course, doctors haven't been looking for illness caused by eating contaminated salmon....
CFIA normally pays a per head price for ISA infected salmon, and orders a cull of the entire lot in contact with the observed infected fish. But this time, Cooke Aquaculture has been allowed to ship them to processors for sale into the Canadian market. This may have something to do with Cooke Aquaculture being d=seriously underwater financially. Reports have it that they are some $350 million in debt at the moment. And the Harper government is known for its willingness to take private industry failures and transfer the risk onto the public's shoulders. It's just that usually they aren't playing with tainted fish.
I mean, does no one in this government remember the Tanted Tuna Scandal of 1985? That too was a true-Blue Conservative scandal.
Tunagate was a 1985 Canadian political scandal involving large quantities of possibly tainted tuna that were sold to the public under order of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, John Fraser.
The story broke on September 17 in the CBC program the fifth estate. Fisheries inspectors had found that StarKist tuna, made by a New Brunswick plant, had spoiled and declared that it was “unfit for human consumption.”[1]
A Winnipeg, Manitoba plant had processed the tuna, and the forced destruction of a million cans of tuna would likely cause the plant to close down. The owners of the plant thus lobbied fisheries minister Fraser. He decided the tuna should be allowed on store shelves. He later defended himself saying he felt the business owners were right that the inspectors were too severe, or that the inspectors could have made a mistake. He also stated that he had two other independent groups test the tuna, but the lab that did these tests later revealed that their testing was not complete when Fraser made his decision.
WTF is wrong with these guardians of the public trust?  Those who learn nothing from history are condemned to repeat it--and I guess that means the Canadian public is doomed to repeat these same scandals everytime we believe the Conservatives when they say they've changed.


  1. At least the CFIA could have had the integrity to publish a scientific opinion by an independent third party scientist to back up their contention that risk is minimal.

    The PR people at CFIA must lie awake at night dreaming up ways to further tarnish their credibility for acting in the public interest.

  2. The government claims there is no risk because doctors don't report incidents of disease from eating ISA. Doctors don't report because there has been no research to define symptoms. There's no research because the industry has no interest in finding out that there might be a link. So the government can say that it's probably safe. It's really quite elegant circular reasoning.