Que. names expert to review cheese policy

Quebec’s provincial government has named an independent consultant to review whether the province’s measures since last summer’s listeria-related cheese recalls will meet the industry’s needs.

Marketing consultancy Zins Beauchesne and Associates was hired this week and tasked with following up on last week’s recommendations from provincial ombudsman Raymonde St-Germain.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard said the firm, based in Montreal and Quebec City, has until the end of August to produce its report, after which the province, if need be, would adjust the economic development plan it drafted for the cheese industry last fall.

The province’s development plan, released in October with a three-year, $8.4 million commitment, called for a temporary screening and prevention program for artisanal cheesemakers; a best-practices system at the retail level; improvements to quality control programs; an interest-free loan program for artisanal cheesemakers; and a fund for value-adding in Quebec’s cheese sector.

The screening and prevention program, Lessard said Tuesday, would be renewed to support businesses coming into compliance with new pathogen control measures.

But Parti Quebecois ag critic Marie Bouille on Wednesday said Lessard’s plan will do nothing to meet the needs of artisanal cheesemakers, and urged him to again consider financial support for cheesemakers who suffered serious financial losses after the provincial ag department recalled and destroyed thousands of kilograms of cheese.

Lessard’s announcement Tuesday means yet another study meant to buy time while the industry sends him an SOS, Bouille said.

“From start to finish, the minister has done his homework badly,” she said. “It’s up to him now to help the industry out, not to search for another excuse.”

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