Canadian Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz has said the XL Foods plant at the centre of an E.coli outbreak will only re-open when there is written proof that there is no health risk from its products.
XL Foods in Alberta had its operating licence temporarily suspended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) last week but may re-open once it complies with CFIA requests for corrective action.
The latest estimates say the recall, which began on 16 September, has affected 1,500 products across 41 states US states and nationally across Canada.
There are currently four confirmed E.coli O157:H7 illnesses in Alberta associated with the consumption of beef products with other cases under investigation.
The CFIA also said they became aware of E.coli in beef at the plant on 4 September and asked XL Foods for information two days later but this was not received until 11 September.
The recall has affected more than 20 retail chains including Walmart, Safeway and Thrifty Foods.
Food safety foundation
Ritz, who toured the affected plant yesterday, said: “While we understand that ranchers, farmers and industry need a strong processing sector, we all agree that the success of the industry must be founded on food safety.
“That is why 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.
“We will continue to improve the food inspection system through the Safe Food for Canadians Act.”
The affected products are associated with the XL Foods manufacturing dates of 24, 27, 28, 29 August and 5 September.
“I saw first hand that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a full contingent of inspectors and staff-sampling, testing and examining all product and procedures in the plant,” added Ritz.
“In fact, the CFIA has deployed additional resources to the plant to ensure Canadian consumers and their families are protected.”
The CFIA said XL Foods had monitoring measures in place but was not properly conducting trend analysis of the data it collected.
The plant needs to improve its trend analysis and also stengthen its response measures when a higher than normal number of detections are made, it added.
“In addition, the company's control measures for meat that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 were not always being followed correctly. While containers of meat testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 were properly handled, a small number of containers produced immediately before and after the contaminated product were not always diverted from the fresh meat line.”