XL Foods' Brooks plant soon could be in operation
Published Tuesday, October 16, 2012 10:15AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 16, 2012 10:47PM EDT
The XL Foods plant at the centre of an E. Coli outbreak could open as early as the end of the week if all goes well with a CFIA inspection that began early Tuesday.
Officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are scrutinizing operations at the XL Foods plant shuttered after E.coli was discovered in beef products processed there, in order to determine whether the facility can resume full operations in the coming days.
CFIA media relations officer Guy Gravelle told CTVNews.ca that inspectors have been at the Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks, Alta., since 6 a.m., to monitor the work of some 800 employees called in for a single shift Tuesday.
The inspectors are evaluating the control processes at the plant, as workers complete the cutting of carcasses that have tested negative for E.coli strain 0157:H7.
The employees on the job Tuesday were among 2,000 that XL Foods said were being temporarily laid off over the weekend. That prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to announce that the layoffs meant its inspectors could not continue their review of control processes at the meat-processing plant.
In response, XL Foods said it was recalling enough workers to complete the work inspectors demanded.
Gravelle said it's possible some workers will be called back to the plant again, if the remaining carcasses aren't all cut Tuesday.
Once that work is done, Gravelle said the CFIA will determine whether the plant's licence can be reinstated. If it is, he said the processing facility could be fully operational as soon as the end of this week or next.
In the meantime, laid-off workers uncertain of when the plant might resume operations have been lining up at the Brooks and County Immigration Office, seeking help filling out applications for Employment Insurance.
"Some of the answers are easy," an official at the office told CTV News. "Some of the answers will be difficult to hear, like those who do not qualify for EI or people who are temporary foreign workers and don’t know what is going to happen with their Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program."
On Monday, the mayor of Brooks said he's hoping inspectors give the plant a green light, so that worried workers can get back to their jobs.
"I'm sure XL beef, they have a trained workforce and they would like to retain as many of their staff as they could, because they are going to reopen and they need all the trained staff they've got," Mayor Martin Shields told CTV News.
In her comments on the XL Foods' plant closure Monday, provincial opposition leader Danielle Smith echoed the mayor's remarks, explaining that the longer the plant is shuttered, the harder it will be to kickstart.
"Some of these workers are temporary – they will be going back home. Some of them will go to other communities. If we start losing that well-trained work force, we are going to have a difficult time making sure it’s operating at full capacity," Smith said.
THE CFIA has indicated that, if inspectors are completely satisfied with operations at the plant Tuesday, XL could have the facility fully up-and-running as soon as the end of this week.
The plant's licence was suspended on Sept. 27, after E. coli strain 0157:H7 was discovered in beef products processed there. Since the CFIA issued its first recall of products from the plant, the list of potentially contaminated products has grown to more than 1,800.
To date, at least 15 E. coli illnesses across Canada have been linked to XL products from the Brooks facility.
With files from CTV Calgary's Rylee Carlson