Alberta cattle producers uncertain as beef recall expands
Brooks' XL Foods processes a third of Canada's beef
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded its recall of beef packed at a plant in Brooks, Alta., after nine cases of E. coli in Alberta have been linked to the meat.
The warning now covers all beef products from XL Foods sold in Co-op, Metro and Wal-Mart stores across Canada.
The meat was processed at the Brooks facility — which processes a third of the country’s beef — between August 24 and 27, as well as Sept. 5.
Alberta Health services is investigating nine cases of E. coli poisoning. Four cases have been linked to beef from XL, but it’s still unclear where the contamination originated.
The recall is causing concern among consumers and uncertainty among cattle producers.
Fourth-generation Alberta rancher Cherrie Copithorne-Barnes said the uncertainty is happening at the same time of year many ranchers are trying to sell their livestock.
"The most frustrating part as a producer is you don’t know what the rules are, you don’t know where this is all going to go."
And while Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said that food safety is the top priority for everyone involved, he said the province is also concerned with Alberta’s beef producers.
"I know that there’s a lot of talk about what went wrong and who might have been at fault and obviously we have to go to great lengths to figure all of out and to analyze what did happen, " said Olson.
"But my immediate concern is getting that plant open, doing whatever needs to be done to get the plant open so that our producers can start delivering their product."
Rich Smith of Alberta Beef Producers said that if the plant stays closed for long it will have an effect on ranchers trying to sell their herd.
"There will be other places for them to go, but they will go there at a reduced price and so there will be an impact on the cattle markets," said Smith.
On Thursday, the CFIA suspended the licensing operation of XL Foods following several warnings about E.coli.
Earlier this week, health officials linked some of the poisonings to steaks supplied by XL and sold in a northeast Edmonton Costco.
In response to the news, Metro grocery stores says it has has pulled all beef from XL Foods off its shelves.
"Food safety is Metro's top priority. The company is aware of its obligations and is committed to maintaining customer confidence," a spokesperson wrote in a news release.