The poop on the fruit controversy
Oct 25, 2012 / 5:13 am
Jeff Bryde says conditions are so bad at BC Tree Fruits it literally made him sick.
The 59-year-old forklift operator says he spoke out publicly earlier this month on Phil Johnson's show on AM1150 about the conditions and was fired for those comments Wednesday morning.
Bryde claims in May of last year he inhaled pigeon feces dust that made him violently ill.
"I started out with a sore throat, headaches and nausea and I ended up in emergency the next morning," says Bryde.
"I was vomiting, I had chills, I had stomach cramps and it was no coincidence what I contacted was from this."
Bryde says he began speaking out two years ago when fruit bins contaminated with what he says is pigeon feces were being sent out to the the orchards and contaminated bins were being brought back into the plant.
He says those conditions remain.
"I said enough is enough. I have a moral obligation to make this public because the company hasn't done anything," says Bryde.
"Right now we have probably close to 4,000 contaminated bins set aside that have to be washed. We started with 1,800 last year and now we are up to 4,000. We are not keeping up with it."
Bryde says he decided to go public after hearing about the E. coli outbreak in Alberta.
"This is exactly similar to what is going on there. We don't know how many people have been contacted with this."
He says his concern is for the farm workers and packinghouse employees, not for the general public.
In response, the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon acknowledging Bryde had indeed been fired while strongly disagreeing with his claims in regards to the bins.
"OTFC takes considerable steps and has rigorous procedures to ensure all tree fruits that leave one of the four packinghouses are food safe for consumer consumption. In addition, OTFC follows the Canada GAP Food Safety standards and is subject to third party audits, the company stated in the release.
"The bins OTFC uses are bulk plywood containers that are used for transport and storage of orchard run tree fruit product. Each bin is cleaned with high pressure water on the line after use. Prior to packing, all fruit and bins are immersed in potable water and sanitized with a chlorine mixture. The fruit is subsequently washed and rinsed prior to packing."
The company goes on to say, "The standard in the industry is for bins to be stored outside and subject to the elements. Any contaminated bins are segregated and procedures are in place to ensure they are washed before they are sent out for use in the orchards or packinghouses."
You may recall Bryde was suspended twice then fired from the Okanagan Tree Fruits Cooperative more than a year ago when he went public questioning their business practices.
His public protest included a five-day hunger strike in front of BC Tree Fruits offices on Water Street in Kelowna.
Following a hearing in March, Bryde's termination was reduced to a six month suspension.
He returned to work April 2, 2012 under certain conditions, one of those he admits was that he was not to speak out publicly against the company.
"Through your misconduct in and breach of your Last Chance Agreement you have again fundamentally and irretrievably breached the employment agreement and our trust in you. Accordingly, for all the reasons set out in this letter, we are hereby terminating you for just cause effective immediately," stated the company in Bryde's termination letter.
Bryde says he hopes some of his former co-workers will come to his aid and back up his accusations although he admits many may be afraid to do so.
He plans to protest outside BC Tree Fruits until the end of the week to draw attention to conditions.
Bryde says he has documentation which he will deliver to Premier Christy Clark.
He says he'll walk to Victoria and hand deliver his documents to the premier to make his point.
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