Warehoused beef from Alta's XL Foods could be sold again: CFIA

Lakeside Packers XL Foods

Lakeside Packers XL Foods

Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

CALGARY - Meat recently sampled at XL Foods in Brooks, Alta., tested negative for E. coli, federal food inspectors said Friday.

But officials were still unable to say when the plant — shuttered four weeks ago — might re-open and said some of the tonnes of warehoused beef from the facility could be back on store shelves.

The tonnes that have been recalled will be destroyed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed.

And news that Brazil-based meat processor JBS will be taking over the plant won’t alter the process of gaining a clean bill of health, said Paul Mayers, associate vice-president of programs with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“This development will not affect the assessment ... we will not allow the plant to re-open normal operations until we are satisfied the safety controls in place are effective,” said Mayers.

Now being analyzed are the plant’s hygiene and sampling techniques, he said.

He made the comments just as the Public Health Agency of Canada revealed a 16th person has become infected with E. coli sickness linked to the Brooks plant -- this one a person in Quebec who’s recovering.

CFIA officials say uncertainty remains over the fate of 5.5 million kg of meat from the plant that’s been warehoused.

“Options can be considered ... the return of the product to a marketable state,” he said, adding the plant operators must finalize a disposal plan before anything happens.

Other alternatives, he said, are destroying some or all of the meat or rendering it for animal consumption.

About 1,200 of the plant’s 2,000 employees who remain laid off since last week are hoping to return to work once the plant resumes normal operations.

CFIA officials said a request to U.S. counterparts to allow meat from the plant into their country will only be made when the facility is able to open.

Mayers also rejected what he called union criticism of federal meat inspectors’ performance in the episode.

“Canada’s food inspectors are professional and doing their jobs diligently,” he said, adding his officials have sought out union concerns but have received none.

Union officials have said their previous concerns over safety at the plant were ignored.

The first beef recall was issued by the CFIA Sept. 16 after E. coli was first detected in meat from the plant 12 days before.

bill.kaufmann@sunmedia.ca

 


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