Alberta premier says province's beef is safe, despite recall
Published Sunday, September 30, 2012 7:57AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 30, 2012 8:11PM EDT
Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she stands behind the province’s beef, which has made headlines following an E. coli scare that has caused a widespread recall.
Redford spent Sunday speaking with local beef producers to discuss the effects of the temporary closure of XL Foods, the food processing plant that has been linked to the contamination.
"Our priority right now is to make sure people know Alberta beef is a safe product and a high-quality product, and to ensure that we get this plant open as soon as possible in compliance with CFIA regulations," Redford told reporters outside a family ranch north of Calgary.
Redford said her government stands behind the province’s meat producers.
“We certainly have a circumstance right now with respect to one company that is having challenges with respect to regulations," she said. "But there is Alberta beef that is being produced right across this province today that is safe to eat."
Redford was to meet with beef industry leaders in Calgary later on Sunday, as well as with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, which advises the provincial government.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanded the list of recalled products from the Alberta-based XL meat packing plant on Sunday.
The list has become so expansive that the agency is advising Canadians who are unsure of whether the meat they’re buying is from XL to ask retailers before purchasing the product.
Dozens of new cuts of beef have been added to the growing recall list, including raw meat products from Costco Wholesale Canada, Walmart, Prairie Meats and Delectable.
E. coli was first detected at the XL plant in Brooks, Alta., on Sept. 4. The CFIA suspended the plant’s licence on Sept. 27.
Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson urged consumers to continue to support the province’s beef industry during a press conference outside a local grocer on Saturday.
“We have a problem, serious problem with one plant. It’s a big plant, but there are many other plants and there all kinds of safe beef everywhere around the province and I really hope people will support our beef industry,” the minister said.
There have been four E. coli illnesses associated with the consumption of beef products from XL Foods Inc., and reports of the expanding recall have shaken consumer confidence in beef products.
Cattle prices in Alberta are dropping too.
According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the average prices for steers and heifers in the province have dropped in recent weeks, selling for hundreds of dollars less than now they were just a month ago.
“It's getting less and less little farmers around that can take the suffering,” said Ivan Potts, an Alberta-based livestock auctions manager. “They're falling, falling fast, and it's going to fall faster for the cattle industry across the province.”
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale blamed the recall on changes to the federal food inspection system implemented by the Conservatives.
But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the Conservative government has more inspectors on the job than in previous years and insists that food safety hasn’t been compromised.
Meanwhile, health officials are still trying to determine the source of the E. coli contamination.
Brian Evans of the CFIA told reporters on Friday that the E.coli is difficult to track. He also said the bacteria can be found in many different food products, not just meat.
“Even in the food supply, we have had recalls associated with E. coli in leafy greens,” said Evans. “We've seen it in apple juice, we've seen it in a number of different products dairy and meat.”
Redford told reporters that because of the plant's size, every day it's closed makes a difference to Alberta.
XL Foods has more than 2,000 employees who are now temporarily out of work.
"This is a plant that produces a significant amount of beef in this province and so it does make a big difference to producers," she said.
With files from CTV Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson and The Canadian Press