One of B.C.'s largest meat processing plants has pleaded guilty to selling E. coli-tainted meat in 2010, and has been fined $125,000.
Pitt Meadows Meats pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court Monday to one count of selling meat unfit for human consumption. The company, which now calls itself Meadow Valley Meats, has also apologized for its actions.
- E. coli allegations lead to charges against B.C. company
- B.C. meat plant covers up positive E. coli test
It was originally charged with 11 counts under the Food and Drugs Act. The Crown stayed the remaining 10 charges.
"Food safety is a priority in everything we do and we apologize for not fully following government procedures in 2010," said Pitt Meadows Meats in a statement issued Monday through a public relations specialist.
"We accept the decision of the Court and pledge to do better."
According to an agreed statement of facts, the company admitted to selling 1,500 kg of meat before test results came for E. coli.
All the products were halal, meaning the animals were slaughtered in accordance with Islamic tradition, and distributed in the Metro Vancouver area. The products were in high demand at the time because of Ramadan.
The statement of facts says a plant manager decided not to recall the tainted beef. No one got sick and no other beef tested positive for the bacteria.
Whistleblower came forward
The coverup came to light when Daniel Land, who oversaw the plant's quality assurance, later contacted CBC News, saying officials at Pitt Meadows Meats told him to keep quiet about the positive test result obtained on Sept. 9. 2010.
Land said a manager failed to report lab results that showed a sample of its product was contaminated with the deadly E. coli O157 strain.
Regulations require federally licensed plants to report such findings.
Land was fired and decided to report the incident to the CFIA, a month after the test came back positive for E. coli.
Federal inspectors shut down the plant for a month and issued a recall, warning consumers that Pitt Meadows beef and lamb products may be contaminated with E. coli and should not be consumed.
The company has apologized to customers and businesses harmed by the recall for not alerting federal officials sooner.
Pitt Meadows Meats gave up its federal license in 2010 and became a provincially licensed facility.
The company's statement detailed a number of improvements since 2010, including increased food safety training, a tracking system for all products, and randomized testing which has not turned up further contamination.