Police launch investigation into Aylmer Meat Packers

Ontario police have launched a criminal investigation Wednesday into the practices of a slaughterhouse in Aylmer, Ont.

Ontario police launched a criminal investigation on Wednesday into the practices of a slaughterhouse in Aylmer, Ont.

INDEPTH: Meat Safety

Aylmer Meat Packers was closed last week following allegations that uninspected meat made its way into dozens of butcher shops across the province.

On Sunday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began issuing recalls on all beef products produced by the company.

On Wednesday, Ontario public safety commissioner Dr. James Young told consumers not to eat any meat products from the Aylmer slaughterhouse.

"While there is no evidence that the extent of the problem extended beyond beef, this facility also slaughters lamb, veal and pork," said Young.

Both the recall and the announcement of an investigation have left the public with more questions than answers.

Toronto butcher Peter Christapoulos says CFIA inspectors turned up on Tuesday but wouldn't say what was wrong with the beef hearts he'd bought from Aylmer Meat Packers. "They told me nothing," he said.

A clue as to what the investigators may be looking for was in a letter sent last week to all Ontario public health officers, saying the company is being investigated for "possible offences involving the illegal processing of deadstock."

* Coverage from CBC Toronto

Deadstock means animals that have died before slaughter, sometimes from illness. It is illegal to sell or process meat from dead animals for human consumption.

Young will oversee an investigation into allegations that Aylmer Meat Packers was slaughtering meat without a provincial inspector present.

The investigation brings into question how well Ontario's meat inspection system is working.

About 150 contract meat inspectors are scattered throughout the province, and at least three provincial departments are responsible for monitoring food safety.

Some 150 meat inspectors have been laid off in the province since the 1990s.

Some critics are drawing parallels between this beef scare and the tainted-water tragedy in Walkerton, Ont., in May 2000.

A public inquiry blamed the disaster in part on government cuts to the Ministry of the Environment.