CALGARY - As a Brooks. Alta., food processing plant works to meet regulatory demands, hoping to reopen, concerns about backlog at Alberta’s ranches linger amid a massive beef recall that has shaken the industry.
The XL Foods plant was shuttered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) last week following the recall that started in mid-September due to potential E. coli contamination of meat products.
The recall has been expanded numerous times, including three times this past weekend, dealing with whole cuts of meat, said CFIA spokesman Guy Gravelle, who added the number of affected products is now well over 400.
Getting the plant reopened rests entirely in the hands of XL Foods, he said.
“It depends on whether or not they’ve been able to properly demonstrate they’ve completed the (several) corrective action requests,” said Gravelle.
“The bulk of them are sanitation issues.
“They have a responsibility of making the changes - it’s entirely up to them.
“That could be days, it could be weeks.”
Dr. David Chalack, chairman of the board with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. (ALMA), said time is of the essence.
“The impact is on those cattle that need to be slaughtered soon,” he said, adding since the plant processes approximately a third of slaughter capacity in Canada each year, many ranchers will be forced to keep their cattle longer than they should have to.
With feed costs on the rise and the price of cattle presumably on the decline, that could have a serious impact on beef producers, he said.
“Every day it goes on, the capacity at the feedlot is fuller because they can’t send the finished steers out,” said Chalack.
“They’re going to incur the cost of high feed prices longer and possibly make less because the prices may come down on what they’re getting paid for the cattle as well.”
Alberta Health Services continues to investigate nine cases of E. coli since the issues with XL surfaced, though it’s not clear where all of the cases were contracted.
Four in Edmonton were last week linked to steaks bought at a Costco in that city that had been shipped from XL, but it’s not clear where the meat picked up the bacteria.
Another four of the cases are in the Calgary area and one was discovered in central Alberta.
A list of recalled products is available at www.inspection.gc.ca/recalls.