XL Foods to resume operations under CFIA watch
By The Canadian PressFeatures New Technology Production Business/Policy Canada Protection
October 23, 2012 – Canada’s food-safety watchdog has restored the operating licence for a southern Alberta meat-packing plant at the centre of a massive recall of tainted beef.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it has lifted its suspension of the licence for the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta.
“We are confident that all issues have been fully addressed,” said CFIA spokesman Paul Mayers.
The agency says the plant will be allowed to “progressively resume” slaughter and meat-processing operations, but will do so under enhanced surveillance by food-safety officials and increased testing protocols.
“While we’re confident that all food safety controls are being implemented appropriately, we will take the added precaution of maintaining enhanced inspection at the XL Food Inc., plant for the foreseeable future,” Mayers told a news conference.
The agency says additional inspectors will stay at the plant to monitor procedures and ensure strengthened food safety controls are being integrated into daily plant practices.
“This enhanced oversight of the slaughter and processing operations will allow the CFIA to ensure that food safety controls are being implemented consistently within ongoing daily operations.”
The agency said last week that samples from meat processed as part of the inspection had come back free of E. coli.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long it would take for the plant to get back up to full speed, but union officials say employees are being summoned for training and suggest production could resume on Monday.
The XL Foods plant has been closed since Sept. 27, the epicentre of an extensive beef recall fuelled by E. coli contamination that has rocked the industry as well as the agency, which is overseen by the federal government.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who has been bombarded with opposition questions on a daily basis during question period since the plant was shut down, promptly issued a statement once the news broke.
“Canadian consumers are our first priority when it comes to food safety,” said the statement.
“Our government will continue to provide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with the resources it needs to help safeguard the health and safety of Canadians and their families.”
Millions of kilograms of meat have been returned to the plant from dozens of retailers across Canada and the United States, and the recalled beef is being dumped at a landfill.
What’s more, the plant’s operations are being taken over by JBS USA, an American subsidiary of a Brazilian-owned enterprise. The agreement provides the company an exclusive option to buy the Canadian and U.S. operations of XL Foods.
The agency also intends to convene an expert advisory committee to conduct a thorough review of all events and circumstances related to the XL Foods investigation, Mayers said.
“The committee is comprised of experts from academia and the private sector and is supported by technical experts from across government,” he said.
“The committee provides the CFIA with independent, objective, professional and technical advice on key issues. The results of this review will be made public once completed.”
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