Supreme Court strikes down claim against CFIA by PEI farmer

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A Supreme Court judge has struck down the latest statement of claim filed against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over a shipment of Prince Edward Island potatoes rejected by Uruguay in 2002.

Visser Potato Ltd., a potato exporter, and Blue Bay Farms Ltd., a potato grower, had been seeking special damages in the amount of more than $1 million. They were also seeking other damages resulting from what they allege was a case of negligent misrepresentation by omission by CFIA.

This latest amendment was filed in March of last year. The original statement of claim in this case was filed in August of 2005 and amended in January of 2006.

After reviewing all submissions in this case Justice Benjamin Taylor ruled the latest statement of claim disclosed no reasonable cause of action against CFIA.

Taylor ordered the claim be struck in its entirety.

He also awarded costs to CFIA, which he fixed at $5,000.

The case evolved around the testing of potatoes for viruses.

In 2002, Blue Bay grew a crop of seed potatoes in P.E.I. and sold them to Visser, which had a contract to sell them to Uruguay. The potatoes were inspected, tested for viruses, and passed. They were then harvested and shipped to Uruguay.

Upon arrival, the potatoes were subject to further inspection and were tested for potato viruses. Between nine per cent and 36 per cent of the potatoes were found to be infected by PVX, a strain of potato virus.

The Uruguayan buyer did not buy the potatoes, and the potatoes were first stored, then destroyed.

Blue Bay received nothing for the crop it grew, harvested and delivered to Visser. Visser did not pay Blue Bay, but received nothing for its expense of shipping, handling, storage and destruction of the potatoes. They also had to buy seed potatoes from other farmers to satisfy its contract with the Uruguayan buyer.

Visser and Blue Bay blamed CFIA for their entire loss.

Taylor noted that although CFIA certifies the inspectors and the lab to do the sampling and testing in accordance with government standards, neither the inspectors nor the lab that analyzed the leaves were employed by CFIA.

Visser and Blue Bay said the 2002 problem was that the leaf test prescribed by CFIA was an unreliable test, CFIA knew it, and did not tell them.

They said had they known the leaf test was an unreliable test, they would have had the inspectors and the lab do a potato tuber test after harvest.

“They say or presume had they done this, they would have found the crop was too infected and would not have shipped it,” Taylor wrote in his decision.

(June 15, 2012) The Guardian

Organizations: Blue Bay, Supreme Court, Visser Potato

Geographic location: P.E.I., Uruguay

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