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CFIA lifts suspension on XL Foods plant linked to E.coli outbreak

By Joe Whitworth , 24-Oct-2012
Last updated on 24-Oct-2012 at 17:55 GMT

The XL Foods plant at the centre of an E.coli outbreak in Canada has reopened yesterday under strict surveillance and increased testing.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) lifted the suspension on the Alberta-based site after monitoring it since 11 October.

The plant will progressively resume slaughter and processing operations but additional CFIA inspectors will remain at the site to ensure strengthened food safety controls.

In its latest update, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said four provinces and territories had been affected with 16 related illnesses, Alberta reporting the most cases with seven.   

CFIA inspectors determined in-house operations, including the cutting and processing of the remaining carcasses and the company’s E.coli O157:H7 controls, sanitation and meat hygiene procedures are being implemented appropriately.

The CFIA became aware of E.coli in beef at the plant on 4 September and the recall began on 16 September and affected more than 1,800 products across Canada and the US.

Enhances surveillance

The CFIA said its enhanced oversight activities include:

  • two additional inspection resources, in addition to the current complement, will focus on certain inspection tasks at key stages of production,
  • increasing testing for E.coli O157:H7, over and above the company’s already established testing protocol, which sees all trim lots sampled and tested, and
  • holding products until all E coli O157:H7 test results have been assessed.

The CFIA will be convening its Expert Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough review of events and circumstances related to the XL Foods Inc. E.coli O157:H7 investigation with results made public once the investigation is completed.

XL Foods takeover

During the closure, it was announced Brazilian multinational firm JBS would take control of XL Foods and JBS USA would took control of the affected plant.

The food safety watchdog said the development would not affect the assessment.

“The CFIA’s top priority is consumer safety so this facility’s operating license will not be returned until the CFIA is completely satisfied that this plant can produce safe food.”

CFIA audit

Last week it was announced that the US Department of Agriculture would audit the CFIA for the first time in three years and the agency issued a statement to clarify the process.

As trading partners, Canada and the United States regularly audit each other’s food safety systems. Canada regularly audits US facilities, and the CFIA's findings are completely consistent with the types of observations US auditors make when they assess Canadian plants.

“The bottom line is that any food safety issues identified either in the course of daily inspection or through these audits are addressed immediately. This was the case concerning audits from the last decade and it remains the case today.”

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