XL Foods faces new lawsuits from B.C. residents

A 15-year-old boy from Nanaimo and a Vancouver woman are suing XL Foods, which owns the Alberta-based meat packing plant at the centre of an international beef recall for E. coli contamination

XL Foods beef recall expands yet again for possible E. coli contamination

Brooks workers

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The City of Brooks is doing what it can to help the laid off workers at XL Foods . 2:00

A 15-year-old boy from Nanaimo and a Vancouver woman are suing XL Foods, which owns the Alberta-based meat packing company at the centre of an international beef recall for E. coli contamination.

Both filed civil lawsuits in B.C.'s Supreme Court in the past week.

Court filings outline how eating beef allegedly contaminated with E. coli led to serious health issues.

XL Foods Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks, Alta., was shut down Sept. 27, but may reopen later this week with CFIA approval. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

The boy from Nanaimo says he suffered a host of problems from allegedly eating beef that originated at the meat plant in Brooks — including internal bleeding, an inflamed bowel and diarrhea, which led to surgery.

As well, the civil suit alleges XL Foods was negligent in its safety practices. He is seeking damages.

Erin Thornton from Vancouver has joined a class-action lawsuit against the company.

According to court documents, Thornton claims she ate recalled beef before the Canada-wide alert went out to the public.

She says she became ill and spent four days in the hospital, and is seeking compensation for loss and damages.

"Some people had the opportunity to purchase it before becoming aware that there was a potential problem with the beef," said Thornton's lawyer, Kieran Bridge.

"And so she bought beef and consumed it and her claim is she got ill as a result, and that's one of the problems she's alleging is that it should have been recalled and removed from the shelves earlier so that she wouldn't have bought it."

Beef recall expanded again

It was announced Tuesday that XL Foods is recalling another 11 products over fears that they could be contaminated with E. coli.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement the company has voluntarily recalled a variety of meat products, including beef stew, kidneys, liver, heart, tongue, oxtail and outside round roast.

The newly recalled meats were produced on Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29 and Sept. 5, 2012. They were sold in B.C. and Alberta under the brands of Freson Bros., IGA, and Market Place IGA, but could also have made their way to other small retailers and butcher shops as unbranded beef, the CFIA said.

At least 15 cases of illness caused by food contaminated by the potentially deadly E. coli O157 bacterium linked to the XL Foods plant have been confirmed — seven in Alberta, one in Newfoundland, four in Quebec and three in B.C. — according to the CFIA.

If consumers are unsure whether they have in their home any of the more than 1,800 beef products that have been recalled to date, the agency is advising them to check with stores where they were purchased.

Workers laid off again

The plant in Brooks, Alta., at the centre of Canada's largest-ever beef recall could reopen by the end of this week, a CFIA official said Monday. It was shut down Sept. 27.

Of the 2,000 workers who were temporarily laid off on Saturday, 800 were recalled on Sunday, but they are once again out of work.

The plant halted operations Tuesday after workers finished processing the 5,100 carcasses that were at the facility when its licence was suspended.

Doug O'Halloran, head of the union representing workers at the plant, says the layoffs were not a surprise, as the recall of 800 workers was designed to clear the carcasses in plant.

There is no word yet on when workers could be called back.

The CFIA oversaw the cutting of the remaining carcasses, which allowed some of the 42 inspectors and six veterinarians to observe the plant's E. coli controls.

Over the coming days, the CFIA said, it will "thoroughly review its observations of deboning and cutting activities, specific E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation in the plant."

E. coli testing results conducted by both the company and the agency are expected from laboratories later this week.

"Based on these observations and test results, the CFIA will prepare a report of its assessment and make a recommendation on next steps," the agency said in a press release. "The CFIA expects to complete this work before the beginning of next week."

Some meat destroyed

The CFIA is also supervising the movement of some meat products from the plant to for rendering, a high-temperature disposal method.

"None of the rendered material will enter the food system," the agency said.

The plant will not be permitted to resume normal operations until the CFIA confirms in writing that it is safe to do so, and no products from the facility will enter the marketplace until the CFIA is fully confident that the plant's food safety controls are working effectively.

The company exports to some 20 countries, and officials in the United States and Hong Kong have placed restrictions on imports from XL Foods over the E. coli outbreak.

In Ottawa, the federal government's handling of the outbreak has sparked criticism from opposition parties, who charge that officials moved too slowly to curb the crisis.

U.S. officials first discovered E. coli in a shipment of beef from the Brooks plant on Sept. 3. The CFIA issued its first recall notice Sept. 16.

Brooks mayor weighs in

Brooks Mayor Martin Shields and Newell County Reeve Molly Douglass addressed local residents Wednesday on a community action plan in response to the layoffs.

The local food bank used to operate three days a week, but now the doors are open Monday to Friday.

Shields said they've determined the laid-off workers are losing a total of $102,000 in wages every day — a loss which will be felt hard at businesses in and around the small city of roughly 13,500 people.

He said federal and provincial officials have set up space in Brooks to help XL workers apply for employment insurance. Roughly 1,000 workers have applied so far, but some have already left town, applying for EI as far away as Calgary and Edmonton.

While Shields thanks officials for the assistance, as many of the workers have come to Brooks from outside of Canada, he's concerned that his town is being held hostage by the dispute between XL Foods and CFIA about when the plant can reopen.

The mayor said he's heard nothing from the company, and the longer the plant stays closed the more he fears workers will leave town and damage the local economy.

Safe Food Act adopted by Senate

The Safe Food for Canadians Act was adopted by the Senate Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the act will give the CFIA more tools and resources to help keep Canadian food safe, like tougher penalties and better control over imports and exports.

Key tools include the enhanced ability for inspectors to demand food producers provide information in a timely and standardized manner and the authority to require traceability systems for food producers.

The government said these measures will help find products faster in recall situations so they can be removed from the shelves quicker and in a more comprehensive way.