XL Foods recalls 800 employees for CFIA review
Published Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:20AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:05PM EDT
XL Foods announced Sunday that it has issued recall notices to 800 employees at its Brooks, Alta. plant so that a review by the federal food inspection agency can resume.
The company said in a statement that the recall is, “key to XL Foods efforts to satisfy the conditions of the temporary license to demonstrate the implementation of enhanced protocols.”
The development seems to have broken an impasse between XL Foods and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which both released pointed statements about the embattled facility this weekend.
XL Foods announced Saturday that it would temporarily lay off 2,000 workers at the plant, which is at the heart of an E. coli scare and the largest beef recall in Canadian history.
The CFIA issued a statement the same day, saying the layoffs meant its inspectors could not continue an examination of the meat processing plant.
“At this time, we are unable to complete our assessment,” the statement read.
The plant had its licence suspended on Sept. 27, following the discovery of E. coli. To date, more than 1,800 meat products linked to the plant have been recalled. At least 15 E. coli illnesses across Canada have been linked to products from the plant.
The CFIA said XL Foods must demonstrate that it can produce food safely before production returns to normal at the plant.
On Friday and Saturday, CFIA inspectors were at the plant to observe the cutting of carcasses that had tested negative for E. coli. But according to the agency, XL Foods decided to halt operations after only half the carcasses were cut. “We are ready to continue our assessment as soon as the company resumes activities,” the CFIA said Saturday.
In the same statement, the CFIA said it had determined that all areas of the XL Foods plant had been cleaned and sanitized. The agency also said that XL’s food safety plans were “acceptable” and that all maintenance and sanitation issues had been addressed.
XL Foods blamed the food inspection agency for its decision to lay off employees, saying the move was necessary because the CFIA cannot indicate when the plant will get its licence back.
“It is this uncertainty that has forced the temporary layoffs. We look forward to actively working with the CFIA to bring this to a viable and timely resolution to allow the plant to recommence operations,” XL Foods said in its Saturday statement.
On Thursday, the CFIA allowed the company to resume limited production.
The company received permission to process 5,100 carcasses that had tested negative for E. coli strain 0157:H7. The processed meat was put under “detention,” meaning it cannot leave the plant until the CFIA is assured that the facility can effectively manage E. coli risks.
The CFIA announced Saturday that some of that meat would be destroyed.
“Beginning Monday, we have authorized the controlled movement of some meat products currently under detention from the plant to rendering, a high-temperature disposal method,” the agency said.
None of the processed meat will “enter the food system,” according to the CFIA.
On Sunday morning, Doug O’Halloran, who represents workers at the plant, said the way the facility’s Canadian owner Nilsson Brothers Inc. has handled the E. coli scare has put a “black eye” on Canada’s beef industry.
“It’s not just the workers and the plant. It’s not the people of Brooks who are going to be hurting as well. It’s the ranchers, it’s the farmers. It’s going to take a while to get the public back on side,” O’Halloran told CTV’s Question Period in an interview from Calgary.
Alberta’s Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson hailed XL’s decision to resume operations for the benefit of the inspection.
“It sounds like we’re back on the rails in terms of the action being taken that will ultimately lead to the recertification of the plant,” he said.
Meanwhile, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 is calling for a public inquiry into the E. coli outbreak to determine what went wrong at the plant.