XL Foods plant to reopen under 'enhanced' scrutiny
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 11:08AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:15PM EDT
The Alberta plant at the centre of a massive tainted beef recall has been given the go-ahead to resume operations, officials announced Tuesday.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced the XL Foods plant had met all the necessary requirements, and will gradually ramp up to full operating capacity in the coming days.
"Based on a full range of observations and testing we are confident that all issues have been fully addressed. We have provided that assurance to the minister," CFIA vice-president Paul Mayers said at a news conference. "Effective today, the CFIA has reinstated the facility's operating license."
However, he said operations will only be allowed to ramp up on a "performance-based" approach, meaning the company will have to prove it can safely handle the increased production volume on a step-by-step basis.
The facility, located in Brooks, Alta., was shut down after E. coli was discovered by meat inspectors last month, and later linked to 16 cases of illness across the country.
Earlier Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government had lifted the suspension on the plant's operating license following a thorough investigation by the CFIA. But he added that the plant would only be allowed to resume operations under “enhanced CFIA surveillance and increased testing protocols.”
Mayers said inspectors will have greater oversight of all slaughter and processing operations, as well as test more frequently for E. coli at key stages in the plant's processes. No products will leave the plant until those results are assessed and all production will immediately halt if safety concerns are raised at any time, he added.
"Our focus in terms of enhanced oversight will include oversight of the E. coli controls, sanitation and general food hygiene, as well the monitoring of critical control points."
The CFIA said inspectors had been closely monitoring "limited, in-house operations" at the plant since Oct. 11, including the cutting and processing of any remaining carcasses.
On Monday, one day before the plant's license was reinstated, workers were called back to the facility to receive new training schedules. At that time, XL Foods’ employees were able to receive food-safety training and practice cutting the meat to demonstrate proper handling of the animal carcasses, but, without a license, the beef could not go out on the market.
Last week, test samples from meat processed at the plant came back negative for E. coli, the CFIA said. All the previously recalled beef has been dumped at a landfill.