The story details can be read here and here.
While Vashti Dalipsingh was the Director of Operations at Cericola Farms Inc., during more than five month period she alleges that she was repeatedly ordered to package normal broiler chickens as the premium grade antibiotic free, animal by-products free ("AABF") organic chicken; usually when they ran out of organic chicken. Dalipsingh says she dug into Cericola's records and realized the fraudulent practice had been going on for eight months before she was fired in April (placing the start date at Sept 2014). She claims that up to 10,000 kg./wk. of conventional meat was intentionally labelled organic to keep up with demand by Cericola's customers.
Running out of organic chicken prior to filling the entire quantity ordered by national chain customers (eg. Loblaws, Sobeys, Costco, etc.) is a dangerous occurrence that is not tolerated by these huge customers.
Cericola claims to be the 2nd largest supplier or organic chicken, and to have been supplying "organic" chicken for 56 years (ie. since 1959). The world's first recorded use of "organic" in the sense of "free from pesticides and fertilizers" was attested in 1942; 17 years before Cericola's first use.
The products, which include Blue Goose Organic and Blue Goose AABF, ended up on shelves at Sobeys, Loblaws and Costco in Greater Toronto and in the Moncton, N.B. area, Dalipsingh’s legal team said.
Of course, Cericola Farms insists that all is well, their chicken is fantastic, and there is no basis for the allegations made against them. Did you expect them to say anything different? Cericola Farms said Dalipsingh's allegations "are frivolous and vexatious, and we intend to vigorously defend our company in court".
Blue Goose, one of the organic chicken brands wounded by these allegations against Cericola has said that they are standing by Cericola, as is Loblaws. Loblaws was also reported to have said they would "act quickly" if the allegations are proven. On Monday June 15th 2015 I spoke to the Store Manager of a Loblaws who told me that he had received a recall notice from his head office for a number of SKU's of Blue Goose, but he had none of the recalled SKU's on the store shelves.
If CFIA does their job, they can readily find other employees who witnessed or participated in the fraud, if it occurred. Whether these other witnesses come forward will likely depend on how much fear Cericola is able to raise in the employee's minds. If people think that whistleblowing will cost them their job, or perhaps everybody's job if the plant is caused to be shut down, they will likely keep quiet.
Forensic auditing can easily determine if more organic chicken was shipped out of Cericola's plant than what was grown. Farms are required to keep records for at least 12 months to 7 years, depending on the type of record. Inventory records are kept on the stock of organic chicken in the process and the storage coolers. In a day to a week of detective work, the truth can be outed. How hard will CFIA investigate?
CFIA may choose to telephone Cericola's President, where the following conversation might occur:
CFIA: "Did you do that alleged organic chicken fraud?".
Cericola's President: "NO!"
CFIA: "That's good enough for me. Sorry to bother you. This case is closed."
CFIA wraps up another investigation in record time. While CFIA may not be effective, they certainly are quick to start, and quick to finish.
In time, we will see what CFIA actually decides to do.
The other possibility is the unjust dismissal lawsuit. While civil suits require full disclosure of info by each party, I'm not so naive to think this always happens as it should.
If it's like the Egg Mafia who were caught shipping known defective eggs by CFIA, there will be a giant purge of computer records, and mountains of shredded papers. Of course, that wasn't criminal conspiracy to hamper a police investigation, it was just Spring Cleaning.
Canada's Supply Management System for chicken ensures that these multi-millionaire chicken farmers are the highest paid farmers in Canada, according to Stats Canada.
Importers of chicken are forced to pay tariffs as high as 285% so as to protect chicken farmers and producers. Consumers pay 50% to 300% more for chicken than the rest of the world. In spite of this, there are ongoing allegations, time and again, of fraud, corruption, abuse, and cheating within the system (eg. spent hens, fraudulent FCR's, contaminated chicken, chicken exports, IREP chicken, animal cruelty, and many more.)
Just how much further along this terrible path will we be forced to march?