XL Foods allowed to partially reopen
Published Thursday, October 11, 2012 7:50AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 11, 2012 6:26PM MDT
The XL Foods Lakeside meat processing plant in Brooks has been allowed to resume limited operations but meat will not be leaving the plant any time soon.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday it conducted a review of the plant on Tuesday and determined that all areas have been cleaned and sanitized.
It said the plant will now be allowed to process the 5,100 carcasses currently in the facility that have tested negative for E. coli 0157:H7.
But it said that the resulting meat will be under “detention.” It will not be allowed to leave the plant until the agency is assured that plant controls are effectively and consistently managing E. coli risks. Only then, will the plant be allowed to fully re-open.
It gave no timeline for when that might happen.
No one has become sick from eating either product.
CFIA says by taking a staged approach to the re-opening of the plant, its experts will be able to fully assess how the facility is working to safeguard against E. coli contamination.
“Beginning today, CFIA officials will monitor the plant’s food safety control in action by allowing the plant to process carcasses under continued strict conditions,” the agency said in a news release.
“The plant will not be permitted to resume normal operation until the CFIA confirms in writing that it is safe to do so,” the agency said.
Problems with E. coli contamination at the plant have resulted in the recall of more than 1,800 beef products. The plant was shut down on Sept. 27.
Twelve people in four provinces have been sickened with the same strain of E. coli found at the facility.
The news of the reopening comes after the nationwide beef recall expanded again, encompassing more products sold in stores in New Brunswick and Quebec.
Two flavours of Janet’s Jerky sold in New Brunswick and corned beef sold in some Quebec stores are the latest to be added to the recall list.
Alberta opposition parties are now voicing concerns about the beef recalls, chastising XL Foods for not publicly commenting on the crisis.
Danielle Smith, back in the province after a three-week-long business trip to the U.S., said XL made a mistake by not stepping up.
Smith made the comments during a barbecue held at the Legislature to show its support for the beef industry.
She says that the XL crisis shows there is a need for more packing plants.
“The problem is when a contamination happens, the product can get spread far and wide before it’s caught, it’s hard to trace back, and you end up with a greater risk to the food supply than if you have localized small and medium sized packing plants.”
NDP leader Brian Mason lashed out at the Conservatives for failing Albertans at the provincial and federal level.
Mason attended a press conference held by the union representing the workers on Wednesday afternoon.
"There's a philosophy that is shared, I think, between the PC provincial government here in Alberta and the conservative federal governement and that is that less regulation is better and that you can rely on some regulation by corporations as a way of saving costs and ensuring that the appropriate outcomes are achieved. I think this is a very good example of how that philosophy has failed Albertans." said Mason.
He says the current system has failed consumers and those who work in the industry.
"This has damaged the brand of Alberta Beef in a way that I think is very very serious," said Mason. "I believe it is the provincial government's responsibility to stand up for the industry and that means to make sure that the industry is properly regulated so that this kind of thing doesn't happen that jeopardizes the safety of the public but also the capacity to export our beef into the American market and to other markets."
The union is speaking out against XL Foods, demanding a public inquiry into procedures inside the plant.
“We don't think that the government can do the inquiry, we think they are part of the problem,” said Doug O'Halloran, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.
He went on to say that the union's complaints are not with the CFIA inspectors but he says that there are not enough of them and they do not appear to have they authority they need to shut down the line if necessary.
"We're not complaining about the inspectors. As a matter of fact the inspectors do a good job with the tools that they have to do it, however there are not enough inspectors," said O' Halloran. "So it's important that we recognize where the culprits are, it's the federal government who's cut back on funding and what have you and continues to cut back on funding."
The union would also like to see "whistle blower" language added to contracts to protect those who come forward with complaints.
In response, XL Foods issued a news release saying it has “an open door policy for its workers and has always welcomed their input on plant operations.”