XL Foods plant to reopen under CFIA's watch
Alberta rancher confident Canadians will continue to buy beef
Posted: Oct 23, 2012 10:46 AM ET
Last Updated: Oct 23, 2012 5:05 PM ET
The XL Foods meat processing plant in Brooks, Alta., will be allowed to resume operations immediately under enhanced Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversight, the agency says.
The agency announced in Ottawa on Tuesday that following a review of the scientific evidence it has reinstated the licence of the southern Alberta plant, which has been at the centre of a massive recall of meat.
The plant will operate under enhanced surveillance and increased testing protocols, with more than 46 CFIA inspectors assigned to monitor slaughter procedures.
“We have a competent and professional group of inspection staff and veterinarians in the plant. Our focus is on the consistency of the application of the food safety controls on the part of the company,” said vice-president of programs Paul Mayers.
CFIA has called for increased testing for E. coli, which sees all "trim lots" held until they are sampled and tested and the results have come back.The CFIA has reinstated the licence of XL Foods, an Alberta plant at the centre of a massive recall of meat. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)
"While we are confident that all food safety controls are being implemented appropriately, we will take the added precaution of maintaining enhanced inspection at the XL Foods Incorporated plant for the foreseeable future," he said.
"For example, we will increase the frequency of certain inspection tasks at key stages of production. We will increase CFIA E. coli testing above and beyond the testing the company already does, and all products will be held until all E. coli test results have been assessed. If concerns are identified at any point, CFIA inspectors will immediately halt operations."
Inspector training questions
CBC News has learned CFIA inspectors at the XL Foods plant fall far below the national average in their training when it comes to something called CVS, the compliance verification system.
It's designed to make sure plants are following federal food safety guidelines and that the "inspection has been done in a consistent, uniform, and efficient way, regardless of which inspector was on the job or where the plant is located."
Nationally, 76 per cent of meat inspectors are fully trained, but at the XL Foods plant only 28 per cent have the full training — which is 11 out of 40.
The meat inspectors union is convinced a lack of fully trained inspectors contributed to the E. coli crisis.
"We think it played a role," said Raphael Tarasco, vice-president of the Agriculture Union of Canada. "The more inspectors you've got trained to do these CVS tasks, the less probability of missing something."
But CFIA defended the number of trained inspectors on site, which was increased to 42 inspectors and six veterinarians during the agency's recent "multi-stage assessment" at the plant.
"We have ... an appropriate complement of the inspection staff — both veterinarians as well as inspectors — who are fully trained in doing the CVS tasks," said Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA's executive director of western operations.
CFIA says it will convene a panel of experts to review what went wrong at the XL Foods plant, and has promised to make those findings public.
Alberta cattle ranchers pleased
Alberta's Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson welcomed news of the gradual resumption of the slaughtering and processing operations.
"Our producers are very resilient people, Albertans are resilient people, but it has obviously done some damage to us in the short term," he said.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford agreed with Olsen, saying the primary objective was to get that plant reopened from the very beginning of this "crisis."
"Our minister of agriculture and I have met on a regular basis and … with Alberta producers, with feedlot operators and with the employees at the plant to make sure that we could support CFIA and the minister of agriculture in getting this plant reopened, so it's good news today," she said.
Olson said no other food processing plant in North America has been under more scrutiny in the past few weeks than the Brooks plant.
From his ranch in Camrose, Alta., Dave Solverson, vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, called the reopening of the plant "a great step forward."
"No business likes uncertainty and it's really caused a lot of uncertainty," he said. "There are still about 12,000 head per week in Western Canada, that were market-ready cattle, that were unable to be slaughtered so they had to be moved to the U.S. and there was just logistical problems, not enough truck to move them."
Consumers can continue to feel confident that beef will be safe to eat, he said.
"The system worked, there were problems of course, but the tainted beef was recalled. I think that most Canadians are pretty good at putting risk in perspective and they understand … it is a perishable food."
Union expects worker training this week
Doug O'Halloran, of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), said earlier Tuesday morning: “We think there’s light at the end of the tunnel now."
The UFCW represents the more than 2,000 workers who were temporarily laid off at the plant in Brooks, Alta., on Oct. 13.
On Sept. 27, the agency suspended XL Foods’ licence to operate the plant because of E. coli concerns. More than 1,800 products have been recalled and 16 people have gotten sick from the tainted meat.
O'Halloran said the union has a meeting with XL Foods and JBS — the Brazilian-based company that will take over management at the plant — at 10 a.m. MT.
O'Halloran said he has heard there are training sessions for workers on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He expects meat processing will resume by Monday.
Top News Headlines
- Greg Weston: Senate scandal may be Harper's worst hour
- The widening Senate scandal that the prime minister flippantly tried to dismiss as a 'distraction' just days ago has instead become arguably Stephen Harper's worst hour. more »
- Washington state bridge collapse injures 3
- A Washington state bridge over a river collapsed last night, dumping two vehicles into the water and sparking a rescue effort by boats and divers who searched the chilly waterway north of Seattle. more »
- 3D printers give rise to 'desktop manufacturing'
- Customizable objects from plastic dollhouse furniture to medical prosthetics can now be designed and printed out by almost anyone at the press of a button, and is going to lead to an 'explosion of new stuff,' predicts author Chris Anderson. more »
- Jet with smoking engine lands safely at Heathrow
- A British Airways jet made an emergency landing at London's Heathrow Airport Friday after developing a technical problem after takeoff. TV footage showed smoke streaming from one of the engines. more »
Latest Business Headlines
- German brewers worry fracking will compromise beer quality
- German brewers are worried that fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits, will jeopardize the quality of their beer by contaminating the water supply and have asked their government to hold off on passing the fracking regulations it has been drafting for months. more »
- SNC-Lavalin letter says Gadhafi son offered VP post: RCMP
- SNC-Lavalin's ties to Libya's former dictatorship ran so deep the company offered the son of Moammar Gadhafi a six-figure job as a vice president in 2008, according to a newly unsealed RCMP affidavit. more »
- Importers brace for fight over iPods and TVs
- Importers of popular electronics such as big-screen TVs and MP3 players are ramping up their fight against federal tariff changes, accusing the government of misleading them by offering tariff breaks that it planned to claw back later. more »
- Big retailers pull out of $7B credit card fee settlement
- Some of America's largest retailers, including Target Corp. and Macy's Inc., on Thursday filed a lawsuit against MasterCard and Visa, rejecting a settlement reached last year over alleged fee-fixing. more »
- Mobilicity debtholders approve sale to Telus
- The creditors owed money by the financially struggling wireless company Mobilicity approved a deal Thursday that would see the mobile upstart sold to Telus for $380 million, but the sale must still be approved by regulators and the court overseeing Mobilcity's restructuring. more »
Lang & O'Leary Exchange
The data on this site is informational only and may be delayed; it is not intended as trading or investment advice and you should not rely on it as such.
- Rob Ford fired chief of staff for telling mayor to 'get help'
- 3 injured in Washington state bridge collapse
- Alleged Ford crack video seller not responding to calls
- Pickup truck backs up over mother, 2 children in tent
- Mike Duffy says he wants to give Canadians 'the whole story'
- Montreal lifts boil-water advisory
- Vancouver man abandons Porsche on B.C. ferry
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford fires chief of staff
- Federal Court won't remove MPs over robocall allegations