CALGARY - Despite the closure of a food processing facility in Brooks, Alta., and an expanded recall on Sunday of beef products, Alberta's premier is standing behind what she says is still one of the province's top products.
Alison Redford was joined by Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson at Bell L Ranch just outside Airdrie, Alta., Sunday to meet with cattle producers in the wake of the XL Foods plant closure in Brooks.
Earlier this month the plant issued a massive recall for hundreds of meat products due to E. coli contamination concerns.
But Redford said Alberta's beef industry will prevail.
"We stand behind our producers and we stand behind the product that they produce," Redford said. "We certainly have a circumstance right now with respect to one company that is having some challenges with respect to regulations, but there is Alberta beef that is being produced right across this province today that is safe to eat.
"Let's remember to cook it well and let's ensure that as we move ahead, that we get this plant reopened so that we can keep the economy moving and we can again have confidence in this terribly important product that we have."
Wayne Hanson, whose family has operated Bell L Ranch for decades, said one of his biggest concerns about the situation is the timing of the closure, which comes just as ranchers begin to market their product.
He said cattle prices have dropped significantly.
Another concern is consumer confidence.
"As long as we're doing our job to make sure that when (the cows) leave the farm everything's safe, that's our responsibility and it's frustrating when things go wrong after that," Hanson said.
Dr. David Chalack, chairman of the board with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. (ALMA) said the XL plant processes about one-third of slaughter capacity in Canada with approximately 2,400 head of cattle per day.
Meanwhile. the recall tainted beef products was expanded Sunday.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that it had added dozens of products to the growing list.
The agency says the affected products are associated with the same manufacturing dates of Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29 and Sept. 5, 2012, as the previously recalled ground beef products from XL Foods.
"There have been four E. coli illnesses associated with the consumption of beef products originating from XL Foods Inc.," the CFIA said in a statement.