Inspection issues persisted at former XL Foods plant in 2014: CFIA documents
Published Wednesday, April 29, 2015 10:01PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, April 30, 2015 1:15PM EDT
Two years after the largest meat recall in Canadian history, contamination and sanitation problems still plagued the Alberta meat-packing plant formerly operated by XL Foods.
Documents obtained by CTV News through an Access to Information request show that in one instance in 2014, E. coli was found in meat exported to the United States from the Brooks, Alta., plant now owned by JBS Food Canada.
U.S. food inspectors detected the tainted meat before it ended up on store shelves.
Unsafe meat was exported in three other instances, documents show, but the exact problem is blanked out in the report.
In one instance, a plant worker didn’t do proper testing for E. coli.
The person responsible for on-site verification of the sampling said she “wasn’t really paying attention.”
For its part, JBS Foods said any problems indicated in the inspections have been resolved.
But Bob Kingston, president of the union representing Canada’s meat inspectors, said the reports are concerning. “If you don’t test for E. coli properly, you are going to have an E. coli outbreak and it is dicey,” he said.
The Brooks XL Foods plant was closed in 2012 after 18 people got sick from eating tainted meat.
It later reopened under the ownership of JBS Foods, a Brazil-based company.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency had blamed unsanitary conditions, poor hygiene and the plant’s failure to immediately disclose E. coli tests.
CFIA documents show these problems persisted in 2014.
Some of the documents made note of instances where employees were standing in two to three inches of pooling, bloody contaminated water, and were splashing product when walking.
Employee hygiene was also a concern. Inspectors found:
- No running water in the women’s and men’s bathroom sinks
- No running water in men’s urinal
- Toilets left unflushed with fecal matter
- No paper towels
Bill Bennett, of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union said there are “always water issues at that plant.”
Kingston there’s a “huge risk” in some of the sanitation problems listed in the reports.
“Don’t forget, we are talking about washroom breaks here,” Kingston said. “There’s no secret where E. coli comes from, so at the end of the day, it’s a huge risk.”
But Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs at JBS USA told CTV News that these are not issues “at the plant today.”
“I was just at the plant a week and a half ago,” Bruett said. “Those are not issues. Everything has been resolved.”
In a follow-up statement to CTV News, JBS Food said the company “is meeting all relevant food safety standards.”
“CFIA previously reviewed, approved and confirmed all of the Company’s corrective actions and all of these incidents are considered ‘closed’ by the competent authorities as of last year.”
The statement also said that no issues identified in the reports resulted in “any unsafe product either entering into commerce or being delivered to consumers.”
The CFIA declined to comment on camera, but the food inspectors’ union president says the agency plans to cut the number of inspectors at the Brooks plant.
In a statement to CTV News provided Wednesday night, the CFIA says the number of action requests issued to the facility is consistent with similar operations.
“JBS Canada has fully addressed all issues raised by the CFIA in the allotted timeframes. There are no outstanding Corrective Action Requests.”