XL Foods recall the largest in Canadian history
Published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 6:34AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:27PM MDT
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says Alberta’s XL Foods will remain closed until the head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sends a written letter pledging that food products from the plant are safe.
Minister Ritz met with Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials at a Calgary laboratory on Wednesday and held a press conference to update the public on the situation.
Ritz says they have 46 people on the ground at the XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks; 40 inspectors and six veterinarians.
The plant was closed last week and will remain closed until it is deemed safe by officials.
"Let me be clear. The XL Foods plant will only resume operation when the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed in writing to me that the health of Canadians is not at risk," said Ritz.
He went on to say that they take incidents like this very seriously and that they are committed to food safety for Canadians.
George Da Pont, the CFIA President also took questions from reporters and said that no system is perfect but the system did work well in this case.
He said that the the domestic detection system picked up the E. coli tainted meat on the same day that a shipment of beef products was flagged at the U.S. border for E. coli by the USDA FSIA.
Da Pont said that the tainted products were immediately pulled from distribution in Canada and all were accounted for. He said that none of the products made it into the market place so there was no need for an immediate recall.
He said that the CFIA currently has limited authority to request documentation.
"On the sixth we did ask for all of the information. There was a delay in getting it and in fact, that is one of the provisions that we put in the new Safe Food for Canadians Act as the minister referred to. We have limited authority to compel the immediate documentation. There is a provision in that document to allow us to do that," said Da Pont.
At that point the press conference was cut short and reporters were told that they would be allowed to ask questions in smaller groups and that they had several people on hand to address individual questions.
With even more items being added to the list of products from the XL Foods beef recall, the incident has now been recognized as the largest recall of beef in Canadian history.
1,500 beef products have now been removed from shelves in stores across the country.
Two more people have been found to have contracted illnesses from E. coli bringing the total number of people infected by the bacteria to 11.
One case involves steaks from XL Foods sold at an Edmonton Costco store that has been connected to the recall.
The origin of the second case has not yet been determined.
In total, five people have become sick from XL Foods processed steaks.
An Edmonton resident infected by E. coli linked to the recall is now launching a lawsuit against the company, saying that he is convinced that there was some negligence in how it was handled.
Matthew Harrison says that he became sick after he ate recalled steaks. He states he was in and out of hospital for a week.
He is looking for compensation from the company as part of a class-action lawsuit.
“It doesn't seem like anybody is being held responsible at this point. It seems like there was some negligence in the way it was handled,” he says.
The lawsuit claims that XL Foods is liable because it produced the meat, but nothing has yet been proved in court.
Dr. Glen Armstrong, who studies E. coli at the University of Calgary, says that strains are identified by their genes. “If the two strains are identical, then you have pretty good evidence the people were infected by eating the contaminated meat. If they’re not identical, that means those people are part of the sporadic cases that occur every year.”
A document released by the Public Health Agency of Canada says its tests on samples from five other patients are complete and show no link to the XL Foods recall.
Armstrong says that coincidences happen. “These are just random events and if they’ve isolated a strain from the infected child, and they know the strain is in the contaminated meat, and the two don’t match in their contaminated fingerprints, there’s no way of linking those two.”
Click here to read a statement that was released by Minister Ritz following the meeting.