03/17/2015 06:33 EDT | Updated 05/18/2015 05:59 EDT

Something's Fishy at Costco

Bloomberg via Getty Images
A man enters a Costco Wholesale Corp. store in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, posted fiscal third-quarter profit that missed analysts' estimates even as comparable sales gained 6 percent. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The news this week that the CFIA has suspended the fish import license of Costco was more than just a little bit ironic. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, when inspecting Costco, they "determined that adequate controls for food safety are not being reliably implemented by the company on a consistent basis, which is in violation of the Fish Inspection Regulations."

We travel to food companies on daily basis as part of our Icicle food safety project. Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that many small and medium-sized food companies do not have a functional food safety program in place. Many don't know how to create a food safety program. Far too many can't identify the top three hazards they must contend with or how these hazards should be controlled.

Our government is acting to protect us from this threat... at least they are trying. The current government, to their credit, passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act back in 2012. Unfortunately, the implementation of this laws has already been delayed. The roll-out is scheduled to take three years and, surprisingly, starts with companies that are already closely inspected. It will be 2017 at the earliest before all sectors of the Canadian food processing industry will be subject to the new regulations. This means many food products you eat daily may not have a food safety program in place at the time of production.

Consumers are strangely complacent. We are happy to pay 300% more for a product that locally grown, organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free but never ask if the product is actually safe to eat. Products can contain nasty bugs, noxious chemicals that aren't supposed to be there, glass, and other stuff that is dangerous for us to eat. As a result, close to 6.8 million of us get sick from food related illness each year.

So, if many food processors don't know or don't care about food safety, governments are slow to act, and consumers are generally asleep on the matter, so who is doing something about food safety? The answer is Costco... along with Scobey's, Overwaitea, and the other big retailers. These companies are concerned about the damage to their reputation when recalls and outbreaks occur with their products, which happens far too often. For the past several years, these companies have been warning their suppliers that they have to get their food safety act together and have forced many food processors to implement reliable food safety programs. These companies are the primary driving force behind the progress we are making toward improving our food safety in Canada today. In doing this, they protect us all and Costco is leading the charge. This is why is ironic and sad to see a company like Costco, get their hand slapped for an issue that they are actually doing so much to resolve.

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