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XL Foods report – PSAC president says better training, more inspectors needed

Barry Wilson – The Western Producer

Food inspectors at the XL Foods plant, which triggered the largest beef recall in Canadian history last year, were not the source of the problem, says their union leader.

Bob Kingston, president of the agricultural union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said front-line inspectors were often following the lead of their managers.

“It was an open secret for a long time that there was a coziness between some of the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) people and the (meat packing) industry in Alberta,” he said.

“There were old school managers in that part of the country that were a bit of a problem. If they say there was a relaxed attitude (to food safety), some of that was a hangover and a lot of it has been addressed. Some of those managers have been replaced.”

An expert panel report on the E.

coli outbreak at the XL plant in Brooks, Alta., which was published in early June, said there was a “weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant shared by plant management and CFIA staff,” and the food safety crisis could have been averted.

CFIA president George Da Pont said part of the problem was the fact that many inspectors are embedded in plants for years, and “there is a possibility they might not be as rigorous after 10 or 15 years as they were at the start.”

Kingston said the report conclusion was startling for many Canadians.

Conversations with the panel during its work had made him “aware of the scenario out there, but I can see how a lot of people could have been alarmed and troubled.”

He said part of the problem was that some managers accepted the view that part of the CFIA mandate was to help trade “as a balanced mandate of the agency.”

Younger inspectors uncertain of their jobs would not necessarily challenge that view, particularly if managers and plant officials were close, he said.

“Often the inspectors were of the impression that the managers had taken the side of . let me put it another way because it isn’t about sides,” he said.

“If there was any push back from the facility, the impression the inspectors were given was to go a little easier, don’t be so hard on them. That kind of response from management does not encourage diligence.”

Kingston insisted that part of the problem is the lack of inspection staff and training.

He rejected the idea that an answer is to move staff regularly between plants so that they do not become too close to those they regulate.

Kingston, who is a former inspector, said that was tried in the 1990s.

“It was a logistical nightmare and an economic nightmare and it became an operational and morale nightmare as well.”

He accepted the argument that embedded inspectors could become too identified with their plant in some cases, imagining that they would be out of a job if they found problems that would close it down.

Instead, if they are properly trained, they would understand doing their job would make the plant better, enhance the reputation of the CFIA and preserve inspection jobs in the long run.

Instead of moving inspectors from plant to plant, a better solution is to not let them become isolated but to keep them in the CFIA loop, he said.

“If you allow people to be isolated from the CFIA culture in isolated locations, they can lose sight of the long-term objective,” he said.

“The potential is there, but there are better management tools available to deal with it than just uprooting people, which could simply end up with a demoralized and disloyal workforce.”

© The Western Producer
Steve Rennie – The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Nearly a year after tainted Alberta beef sickened 18 people, briefly blocked exports to the U.S. and cast doubts on the safety of Canada’s food supply, no one can say for sure what led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

It could have been a horde of germs from a contaminated animal passing through a super shredder, a new report suggests. Or an improperly decontaminated carcass. Or simply a case of too much bacteria for the plant to handle.

One thing is for certain: neither staff nor federal inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., were taking food safety seriously enough last September to prevent the crisis from happening, a three-member review panel has concluded.

“We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures – clearly outlined in some documents, less so in others … a shortcoming shared by both plant and CFIA staff,” says the report released Wednesday.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Seemingly obvious tasks – properly cleaning the germ-infested equipment with which the meat came into contact, for instance – might have limited the outbreak of E. coli, the report says.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The governing Conservatives welcomed the report with plans to spend $16 million over three years to set up inspection teams, complete with 30 new inspectors, to do spot checks on all food plants across the country.

“These highly skilled teams will conducted unannounced spot checks at any federally inspected plants across Canada,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“They will assess the plant’s food safety controls and operations as well as the corresponding inspection activities.”

The government and the inspection agency are working to implement the other panel recommendations, Ritz added. “Food safety,” he said, “is not static.”

Panel members Ron Lewis, Andre Corriveau and Ron Usborne were charged with determining how the contamination occurred and how authorities responded to the crisis.

In a statement, they said Canada’s food-safety system needs “continuous improvement, vigilance and commitment” to maintain its standing as one of the world’s best.

“It is our hope that we have captured the essential elements of the event and subsequent recall and that positive results will accrue from our recommendations,” they said.

The contamination at the XL Foods plant last September left thousands of tonnes of suspect beef to be disposed of in what the report described as the largest such recall ever in Canada.

At the time of the E. coli outbreak, the plant was the largest Canadian-owned beef slaughter facility in the country.

It is now owned and operated by JBS Food Canada, a subsidiary of JBS South America.

© Lethbridge Herald
Steve Rennie – The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Nearly a year after tainted Alberta beef sickened 18 people, briefly blocked exports to the U.S. and cast doubts on the safety of Canada’s food supply, no one can say for sure what led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

It could have been a horde of germs from a contaminated animal passing through a super shredder, a new report suggests. Or an improperly decontaminated carcass. Or simply a case of too much bacteria for the plant to handle.

One thing is for certain: neither staff nor federal inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., were taking food safety seriously enough last September to prevent the crisis from happening, a three-member review panel has concluded.

“We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures – clearly outlined in some documents, less so in others … a shortcoming shared by both plant and CFIA staff,” says the report released Wednesday.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Seemingly obvious tasks – properly cleaning the germ-infested equipment with which the meat came into contact, for instance – might have limited the outbreak of E. coli, the report says.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The governing Conservatives welcomed the report with plans to spend $16 million over three years to set up inspection teams, complete with 30 new inspectors, to do spot checks on all food plants across the country.

“These highly skilled teams will conducted unannounced spot checks at any federally inspected plants across Canada,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“They will assess the plant’s food safety controls and operations as well as the corresponding inspection activities.”

The government and the inspection agency are working to implement the other panel recommendations, Ritz added. “Food safety,” he said, “is not static.”

Panel members Ron Lewis, Andre Corriveau and Ron Usborne were charged with determining how the contamination occurred and how authorities responded to the crisis.

In a statement, they said Canada’s food-safety system needs “continuous improvement, vigilance and commitment” to maintain its standing as one of the world’s best.

“It is our hope that we have captured the essential elements of the event and subsequent recall and that positive results will accrue from our recommendations,” they said.

The contamination at the XL Foods plant last September left thousands of tonnes of suspect beef to be disposed of in what the report described as the largest such recall ever in Canada.

At the time of the E. coli outbreak, the plant was the largest Canadian-owned beef slaughter facility in the country.

It is now owned and operated by JBS Food Canada, a subsidiary of JBS South America.

© Lethbridge Herald
Steve Rennie – The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Nearly a year after tainted Alberta beef sickened 18 people, briefly blocked exports to the U.S. and cast doubts on the safety of Canada’s food supply, no one can say for sure what led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

It could have been a horde of germs from a contaminated animal passing through a super shredder, a new report suggests. Or an improperly decontaminated carcass. Or simply a case of too much bacteria for the plant to handle.

One thing is for certain: neither staff nor federal inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., were taking food safety seriously enough last September to prevent the crisis from happening, a three-member review panel has concluded.

“We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures – clearly outlined in some documents, less so in others … a shortcoming shared by both plant and CFIA staff,” says the report released Wednesday.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Seemingly obvious tasks – properly cleaning the germ-infested equipment with which the meat came into contact, for instance – might have limited the outbreak of E. coli, the report says.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The governing Conservatives welcomed the report with plans to spend $16 million over three years to set up inspection teams, complete with 30 new inspectors, to do spot checks on all food plants across the country.

“These highly skilled teams will conducted unannounced spot checks at any federally inspected plants across Canada,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“They will assess the plant’s food safety controls and operations as well as the corresponding inspection activities.”

The government and the inspection agency are working to implement the other panel recommendations, Ritz added. “Food safety,” he said, “is not static.”

Panel members Ron Lewis, Andre Corriveau and Ron Usborne were charged with determining how the contamination occurred and how authorities responded to the crisis.

In a statement, they said Canada’s food-safety system needs “continuous improvement, vigilance and commitment” to maintain its standing as one of the world’s best.

“It is our hope that we have captured the essential elements of the event and subsequent recall and that positive results will accrue from our recommendations,” they said.

The contamination at the XL Foods plant last September left thousands of tonnes of suspect beef to be disposed of in what the report described as the largest such recall ever in Canada.

At the time of the E. coli outbreak, the plant was the largest Canadian-owned beef slaughter facility in the country.

It is now owned and operated by JBS Food Canada, a subsidiary of JBS South America.

© Lethbridge Herald

XL Foods recall blamed on ‘relaxed attitude’ towards applying mandatory procedures

Silvia Pikal – Beacon News

An independent review of the XL Foods Inc. recall says a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures is partly to blame for the E. coli outbreak that made 18 people sick.

The review says responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met by both XL Foods plant staff and CFIA officials.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history, ” the report said.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

According to the review, proper sampling, analysis and response could have detected the E. coli contamination earlier and prevented tainted shipments from leaving the Brooks plant.

The advisory panel, which was comprised of recognized scientific, public health, and industry experts, released the report on Wednesday.

The XL Foods recall was the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

So far the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recalled more than 1,800 products processed at the XL Foods plant due to possible E. coli contamination.

Agriculture Minister says government will establish inspection teams

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a news conference the federal government has accepted all 30 recommendations to improve food safety from the report.

Ritz said the federal government will spend $16 million over the next three years to establish Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs) to oversee the performance of Canada’s entire food inspection system.

The IVTs will conduct unannounced spot checks of plants across the country.

“We accept the panel’s recommendations and are taking concrete steps to to ensure that our system continues to provide safe food for Canadian families today and in the future,” Ritz said in a statement.

Retail Council of Canada says they support the XL Foods independent review

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said they support the recommendations of the independent review.

The RCC said earlier this year the organization and its members spent a day with the independent review panel discussing ways to improve how recalls are managed in Canada.

“Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world however there is always opportunity to improve,”  said David Wilkes, senior VP of RCC, in a statement.

“We will work in partnership with the government to ensure that we maintain our high standards and to ensure food safety for consumers.”

In its discussion with the panel, RCC said they raised the need for better collaboration and sharing of information with the CFIA so that retailers are better equipped to manage events such as the XL Foods recall.

“We were very pleased to see many of our suggestions, such as a more transparent communication with the agency, included in the panel’s recommendations relating to the strengthening of incident management and recall response,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes said grocery retailers in Canada are responsible for ensuring that recalled products are removed immediately from store shelves to minimize food safety concerns for consumers.

“All of our members have their own rapid response teams that are trained and ready to manage food safety events,” Wilkes said.

“In the case of the XL Beef recall, the system already in place by our members worked and the product was removed within hours of learning about the specific products affected.”

Class action lawsuit launched against XL Foods

Siskinds LLP has launched a class-action lawsuit against XL Foods, which includes Canadians and Americans who purchased recalled XL beef.

The lawsuit alleges XL Foods negligently produced certain beef products processed at the Brooks facility.

Specifically, the claim alleges that XL Foods was negligent in the design and implementation of control, sampling and testing procedures, and that, upon discovering the possible E. coli contamination, XL Foods was negligent in managing the resulting product recall.

The class actions are being prosecuted in Alberta.

© Beacon News

Steve Rennie – The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Nearly a year after tainted Alberta beef sickened 18 people, briefly blocked exports to the U.S. and cast doubts on the safety of Canada’s food supply, no one can say for sure what led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

It could have been a horde of germs from a contaminated animal passing through a super shredder, a new report suggests. Or an improperly decontaminated carcass. Or simply a case of too much bacteria for the plant to handle.

One thing is for certain: neither staff nor federal inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., were taking food safety seriously enough last September to prevent the crisis from happening, a three-member review panel has concluded.

“We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures – clearly outlined in some documents, less so in others … a shortcoming shared by both plant and CFIA staff,” says the report released Wednesday.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Seemingly obvious tasks – properly cleaning the germ-infested equipment with which the meat came into contact, for instance – might have limited the outbreak of E. coli, the report says.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The governing Conservatives welcomed the report with plans to spend $16 million over three years to set up inspection teams, complete with 30 new inspectors, to do spot checks on all food plants across the country.

“These highly skilled teams will conducted unannounced spot checks at any federally inspected plants across Canada,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“They will assess the plant’s food safety controls and operations as well as the corresponding inspection activities.”

The government and the inspection agency are working to implement the other panel recommendations, Ritz added. “Food safety,” he said, “is not static.”

Panel members Ron Lewis, Andre Corriveau and Ron Usborne were charged with determining how the contamination occurred and how authorities responded to the crisis.

In a statement, they said Canada’s food-safety system needs “continuous improvement, vigilance and commitment” to maintain its standing as one of the world’s best.

“It is our hope that we have captured the essential elements of the event and subsequent recall and that positive results will accrue from our recommendations,” they said.

The contamination at the XL Foods plant last September left thousands of tonnes of suspect beef to be disposed of in what the report described as the largest such recall ever in Canada.

At the time of the E. coli outbreak, the plant was the largest Canadian-owned beef slaughter facility in the country.

It is now owned and operated by JBS Food Canada, a subsidiary of JBS South America.

© Lethbridge Herald

XL Foods recall blamed on ‘relaxed attitude’ towards applying mandatory procedures

Silvia Pikal – Beacon News

An independent review of the XL Foods Inc. recall says a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures is partly to blame for the E. coli outbreak that made 18 people sick.

The review says responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met by both XL Foods plant staff and CFIA officials.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history, ” the report said.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

According to the review, proper sampling, analysis and response could have detected the E. coli contamination earlier and prevented tainted shipments from leaving the Brooks plant.

The advisory panel, which was comprised of recognized scientific, public health, and industry experts, released the report on Wednesday.

The XL Foods recall was the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

So far the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recalled more than 1,800 products processed at the XL Foods plant due to possible E. coli contamination.

Agriculture Minister says government will establish inspection teams

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a news conference the federal government has accepted all 30 recommendations to improve food safety from the report.

Ritz said the federal government will spend $16 million over the next three years to establish Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs) to oversee the performance of Canada’s entire food inspection system.

The IVTs will conduct unannounced spot checks of plants across the country.

“We accept the panel’s recommendations and are taking concrete steps to to ensure that our system continues to provide safe food for Canadian families today and in the future,” Ritz said in a statement.

Retail Council of Canada says they support the XL Foods independent review

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said they support the recommendations of the independent review.

The RCC said earlier this year the organization and its members spent a day with the independent review panel discussing ways to improve how recalls are managed in Canada.

“Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world however there is always opportunity to improve,”  said David Wilkes, senior VP of RCC, in a statement.

“We will work in partnership with the government to ensure that we maintain our high standards and to ensure food safety for consumers.”

In its discussion with the panel, RCC said they raised the need for better collaboration and sharing of information with the CFIA so that retailers are better equipped to manage events such as the XL Foods recall.

“We were very pleased to see many of our suggestions, such as a more transparent communication with the agency, included in the panel’s recommendations relating to the strengthening of incident management and recall response,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes said grocery retailers in Canada are responsible for ensuring that recalled products are removed immediately from store shelves to minimize food safety concerns for consumers.

“All of our members have their own rapid response teams that are trained and ready to manage food safety events,” Wilkes said.

“In the case of the XL Beef recall, the system already in place by our members worked and the product was removed within hours of learning about the specific products affected.”

Class action lawsuit launched against XL Foods

Siskinds LLP has launched a class-action lawsuit against XL Foods, which includes Canadians and Americans who purchased recalled XL beef.

The lawsuit alleges XL Foods negligently produced certain beef products processed at the Brooks facility.

Specifically, the claim alleges that XL Foods was negligent in the design and implementation of control, sampling and testing procedures, and that, upon discovering the possible E. coli contamination, XL Foods was negligent in managing the resulting product recall.

The class actions are being prosecuted in Alberta.

© Beacon News

XL Foods recall blamed on ‘relaxed attitude’ towards applying mandatory procedures

Silvia Pikal – Beacon News

An independent review of the XL Foods Inc. recall says a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures is partly to blame for the E. coli outbreak that made 18 people sick.

The review says responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met by both XL Foods plant staff and CFIA officials.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history, ” the report said.

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

According to the review, proper sampling, analysis and response could have detected the E. coli contamination earlier and prevented tainted shipments from leaving the Brooks plant.

The advisory panel, which was comprised of recognized scientific, public health, and industry experts, released the report on Wednesday.

The XL Foods recall was the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

So far the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recalled more than 1,800 products processed at the XL Foods plant due to possible E. coli contamination.

Agriculture Minister says government will establish inspection teams

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at a news conference the federal government has accepted all 30 recommendations to improve food safety from the report.

Ritz said the federal government will spend $16 million over the next three years to establish Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs) to oversee the performance of Canada’s entire food inspection system.

The IVTs will conduct unannounced spot checks of plants across the country.

“We accept the panel’s recommendations and are taking concrete steps to to ensure that our system continues to provide safe food for Canadian families today and in the future,” Ritz said in a statement.

Retail Council of Canada says they support the XL Foods independent review

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said they support the recommendations of the independent review.

The RCC said earlier this year the organization and its members spent a day with the independent review panel discussing ways to improve how recalls are managed in Canada.

“Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world however there is always opportunity to improve,”  said David Wilkes, senior VP of RCC, in a statement.

“We will work in partnership with the government to ensure that we maintain our high standards and to ensure food safety for consumers.”

In its discussion with the panel, RCC said they raised the need for better collaboration and sharing of information with the CFIA so that retailers are better equipped to manage events such as the XL Foods recall.

“We were very pleased to see many of our suggestions, such as a more transparent communication with the agency, included in the panel’s recommendations relating to the strengthening of incident management and recall response,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes said grocery retailers in Canada are responsible for ensuring that recalled products are removed immediately from store shelves to minimize food safety concerns for consumers.

“All of our members have their own rapid response teams that are trained and ready to manage food safety events,” Wilkes said.

“In the case of the XL Beef recall, the system already in place by our members worked and the product was removed within hours of learning about the specific products affected.”

Class action lawsuit launched against XL Foods

Siskinds LLP has launched a class-action lawsuit against XL Foods, which includes Canadians and Americans who purchased recalled XL beef.

The lawsuit alleges XL Foods negligently produced certain beef products processed at the Brooks facility.

Specifically, the claim alleges that XL Foods was negligent in the design and implementation of control, sampling and testing procedures, and that, upon discovering the possible E. coli contamination, XL Foods was negligent in managing the resulting product recall.

The class actions are being prosecuted in Alberta.

Contaminated meat at Alberta plant could have been contained, report says

Kathleen Harris – CBC News

An independent report has concluded the largest beef recall in Canada’s history could have been prevented, finding a “weak food safety culture” and “relaxed attitude” to safety protocol at the XL Foods plant where the tainted meat was processed.

The Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012 report into the E. coli contaminated beef produced at the plant in Brooks, Alta., concluded there was “a series of inadequate responses by two key players.”

It also found that proper sampling, analysis and response could have detected the contamination earlier and prevented tainted shipments from leaving the plant.

“We found that responsibilities toward food safety programs were not always met — by both plant staff and CFIA officials on site,” the report concludes.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history.”

“As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

The federal government has accepted all 30 of the recommendations from the independent panel review and has begun taking action, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at a news conference Wednesday.

“In response to the report, I’m announcing the creation of new Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs). Our government will invest nearly $16 million over the next three years to establish these IVTs,” Ritz said.

These 30 inspector positions, which may be staffed by existing employees or new hires, will conduct spot checks at federally inspected plants across the country.

But moving existing inspectors into the IVTs will not solve anything, said the NDP’s agriculture critic Malcolm Allen adding that the report “is a damning indictment of his [Ritz’s] management of the entire food safety regime.”

‘Significant problems’

The inspection teams are expected to be up and running later this year.

The report presents a “working hypothesis” of what happened, suggesting the outbreak began after an animal heavily contaminated with E. coli — a super shedder releasing large quantities of the pathogen — entered the plant.

“Perhaps the carcass was inadequately decontaminated or the numbers of bacteria present simply overwhelmed the processing system,” the report reads.

As the contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in a piece of equipment, and sanitation of the equipment was “inadequate.” The report notes that some of the nozzles on a pasteurizer were clogged.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The report says the recall revealed some strengths in monitoring and surveillance in Canada’s food safety system, but also found XL Foods did not follow all food safety protocols and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should have been more rigorous in its oversight.

While XL had monitoring measures in place, it was not carrying out adequate trend analysis of the collected data or following “bracketing” procedures by removing containers of beef produced before and after ones found to contain E. coli.

The outbreak led to 18 illnesses and the largest beef recall in Canada’s history.

Similarities with Listeria outbreak

About 4,000 tonnes of beef and beef products were recalled from Canadian, U.S. and other international markets, representing at least 12,000 head of cattle, during the massive recall last fall.

The report lists 30 recommendations to strengthen the food safety system, including:

  • Greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff.
  • More enforcement of oversight responsibilities.
  • CFIA and Health Canada should continue to expedite the approval of interventions
  • The minister of health should assess the effectiveness of the agency’s activities related to its meat programs.
  • Stronger requirements for data analysis to stop the distribution of contaminated product.
  • CFIA should ensure a technical expert is available to deal with media and stakeholders.

The report also recalls the Weatherill report on the 2008 Listeria outbreak, noting similar problems of a inadequate food safety culture, a lack of co-ordinated response and resulting public confusion.

Responding to a question in the House of Commons, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government is committed to taking action.

“Our government accepts the recommendations that the panel has made. We will continue to work on bolstering our food safety system by improving inspections, strengthening food safety and recalls, and passing things like Bill S-11,” he said.

Bill S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, imposes tougher penalties for activities that put health and safety at risk, strengthens control over imports, improves inspection regimes and improves food traceability.

A revised policy that comes into effect July 2, 2013, requires all slaughter and processing establishments handling raw beef to develop a program for trend analysis that takes E. coli results into account.

Last month, Ritz also announced that federally registered meat plans will be required to put new labels on mechanically tenderized beef as part of a broader food safety action plan.

It aims to warn consumers that mechanically tenderized beef must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate the risk of E. coli because the needles used can push E. coli deeper into the meat.

© CBC

Contaminated meat at Alberta plant could have been contained, report says

Kathleen Harris – CBC News

An independent report has concluded the largest beef recall in Canada’s history could have been prevented, finding a “weak food safety culture” and “relaxed attitude” to safety protocol at the XL Foods plant where the tainted meat was processed.

The Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012 report into the E. coli contaminated beef produced at the plant in Brooks, Alta., concluded there was “a series of inadequate responses by two key players.”

It also found that proper sampling, analysis and response could have detected the contamination earlier and prevented tainted shipments from leaving the plant.

“We found that responsibilities toward food safety programs were not always met — by both plant staff and CFIA officials on site,” the report concludes.

“We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history.”

“As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

The federal government has accepted all 30 of the recommendations from the independent panel review and has begun taking action, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at a news conference Wednesday.

“In response to the report, I’m announcing the creation of new Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs). Our government will invest nearly $16 million over the next three years to establish these IVTs,” Ritz said.

These 30 inspector positions, which may be staffed by existing employees or new hires, will conduct spot checks at federally inspected plants across the country.

But moving existing inspectors into the IVTs will not solve anything, said the NDP’s agriculture critic Malcolm Allen adding that the report “is a damning indictment of his [Ritz’s] management of the entire food safety regime.”

‘Significant problems’

The inspection teams are expected to be up and running later this year.

The report presents a “working hypothesis” of what happened, suggesting the outbreak began after an animal heavily contaminated with E. coli — a super shedder releasing large quantities of the pathogen — entered the plant.

“Perhaps the carcass was inadequately decontaminated or the numbers of bacteria present simply overwhelmed the processing system,” the report reads.

As the contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in a piece of equipment, and sanitation of the equipment was “inadequate.” The report notes that some of the nozzles on a pasteurizer were clogged.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant.”

The report says the recall revealed some strengths in monitoring and surveillance in Canada’s food safety system, but also found XL Foods did not follow all food safety protocols and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should have been more rigorous in its oversight.

While XL had monitoring measures in place, it was not carrying out adequate trend analysis of the collected data or following “bracketing” procedures by removing containers of beef produced before and after ones found to contain E. coli.

The outbreak led to 18 illnesses and the largest beef recall in Canada’s history.

Similarities with Listeria outbreak

About 4,000 tonnes of beef and beef products were recalled from Canadian, U.S. and other international markets, representing at least 12,000 head of cattle, during the massive recall last fall.

The report lists 30 recommendations to strengthen the food safety system, including:

  • Greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff.
  • More enforcement of oversight responsibilities.
  • CFIA and Health Canada should continue to expedite the approval of interventions
  • The minister of health should assess the effectiveness of the agency’s activities related to its meat programs.
  • Stronger requirements for data analysis to stop the distribution of contaminated product.
  • CFIA should ensure a technical expert is available to deal with media and stakeholders.

The report also recalls the Weatherill report on the 2008 Listeria outbreak, noting similar problems of a inadequate food safety culture, a lack of co-ordinated response and resulting public confusion.

Responding to a question in the House of Commons, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government is committed to taking action.

“Our government accepts the recommendations that the panel has made. We will continue to work on bolstering our food safety system by improving inspections, strengthening food safety and recalls, and passing things like Bill S-11,” he said.

Bill S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, imposes tougher penalties for activities that put health and safety at risk, strengthens control over imports, improves inspection regimes and improves food traceability.

A revised policy that comes into effect July 2, 2013, requires all slaughter and processing establishments handling raw beef to develop a program for trend analysis that takes E. coli results into account.

Last month, Ritz also announced that federally registered meat plans will be required to put new labels on mechanically tenderized beef as part of a broader food safety action plan.

It aims to warn consumers that mechanically tenderized beef must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate the risk of E. coli because the needles used can push E. coli deeper into the meat.

© CBC
Bruce Johnstone – The Leader-Post

The ongoing shenanigans on Parliament Hill (expense account scandals in the Senate, $1-million slush funds in the PMO, a rogue Tory MP leaving caucus) sometimes distracts us media types from covering more serious news.

Case in point was the report released this week outlining the many shortcomings of our food inspection system in the wake of the E. coli outbreak at XL Foods last year and the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

With the circus going on in Ottawa, the report on the foul-up at XL Foods kind of got lost in the shuffle. It’s too bad because the report makes interesting, if at times stomach-churning, reading.

The report highlighted the significant failures in the food safety system that resulted in the poisonings of 18 consumers, the recall of some 1,800 products in Canada and the U.S., and the damage done to the Canadian beef industry (estimated at $16 million to $27 million).

And there’s plenty of blame to go around, namely XL Foods, owners of one of Canada’s largest meat packing plants in Brooks, Alta. with 35 per cent of Canadian beef processing capacity, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The report’s authors point to a “series of inadequate responses” by both XL Foods and the CFIA staff that led to the contamination event in September 2012.

“We found that responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met – by both plant staff and CFIA officials on site. We found a relaxed attitude toward applying mandatory procedures … We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history …

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Without going into the gory details, the report determined that a “animal heavily contaminated with E. coli O157: H7 (a pathogenic or disease-causing strain of the bacteria) entered the plant” and as the “contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in or on a piece of equipment,” probably part of the mechanical tenderizing process.

“The contamination might have been limited only to that day’s production had adequate sanitation been performed on this piece of equipment.” But inspection of sanitary procedures was performed “randomly twice a week.” For example, 12 of 100 nozzles on the pasteurizer were clogged.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant,” the report said.

As sides of beef continued to pass by this piece of equipment, they were also sporadically contaminated over subsequent days. As a result, the E. coli contamination was allowed to spread, causing more contaminated product to leave the plant undetected.

The report cites a litany of failures – “absence of detailed documentation, inconsistent trend analysis, insufficient record keeping, inconsistent sampling” – that exacerbated the problem. After the contamination was discovered (at another plant and at the U.S. border), in-formation provided to CFIA officials by XL was coded or in hard copy, causing further delays in determining the source and extent of the contamination.

“A six-day delay in providing this information – while the plant remained in operation and no root cause had been identified – meant that contaminated product continued to be produced and shipped from the plant.”

The report concludes that the XL Foods recall was hindered by poor communications with the public. “And it was all preventable.”

Of the report’s 30 recommendations, 24 refer specifically to the CFIA and how it can improve prevention strategies and regulatory oversight, surveillance and trend analysis, incident management and recall response and communication with the public about food safety.

The ink was barely dry on the report when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced his government’s response: a new inspection verification system with a team of 30 inspectors at a cost of $16 million over three years. “As we all know, no system is perfect,” said Ritz, who promised to implement all of the recommendations.

But NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said the report is a “damning indictment of his management of the entire food safety regime.”

It’s hard to argue with either of those statements.

© The Regina Leader-Post

Bruce Johnstone – The Leader-Post

The ongoing shenanigans on Parliament Hill (expense account scandals in the Senate, $1-million slush funds in the PMO, a rogue Tory MP leaving caucus) sometimes distracts us media types from covering more serious news.

Case in point was the report released this week outlining the many shortcomings of our food inspection system in the wake of the E. coli outbreak at XL Foods last year and the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

With the circus going on in Ottawa, the report on the foul-up at XL Foods kind of got lost in the shuffle. It’s too bad because the report makes interesting, if at times stomach-churning, reading.

The report highlighted the significant failures in the food safety system that resulted in the poisonings of 18 consumers, the recall of some 1,800 products in Canada and the U.S., and the damage done to the Canadian beef industry (estimated at $16 million to $27 million).

And there’s plenty of blame to go around, namely XL Foods, owners of one of Canada’s largest meat packing plants in Brooks, Alta. with 35 per cent of Canadian beef processing capacity, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The report’s authors point to a “series of inadequate responses” by both XL Foods and the CFIA staff that led to the contamination event in September 2012.

“We found that responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met – by both plant staff and CFIA officials on site. We found a relaxed attitude toward applying mandatory procedures … We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history …

“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.”

Without going into the gory details, the report determined that a “animal heavily contaminated with E. coli O157: H7 (a pathogenic or disease-causing strain of the bacteria) entered the plant” and as the “contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in or on a piece of equipment,” probably part of the mechanical tenderizing process.

“The contamination might have been limited only to that day’s production had adequate sanitation been performed on this piece of equipment.” But inspection of sanitary procedures was performed “randomly twice a week.” For example, 12 of 100 nozzles on the pasteurizer were clogged.

“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant,” the report said.

As sides of beef continued to pass by this piece of equipment, they were also sporadically contaminated over subsequent days. As a result, the E. coli contamination was allowed to spread, causing more contaminated product to leave the plant undetected.

The report cites a litany of failures – “absence of detailed documentation, inconsistent trend analysis, insufficient record keeping, inconsistent sampling” – that exacerbated the problem. After the contamination was discovered (at another plant and at the U.S. border), in-formation provided to CFIA officials by XL was coded or in hard copy, causing further delays in determining the source and extent of the contamination.

“A six-day delay in providing this information – while the plant remained in operation and no root cause had been identified – meant that contaminated product continued to be produced and shipped from the plant.”

The report concludes that the XL Foods recall was hindered by poor communications with the public. “And it was all preventable.”

Of the report’s 30 recommendations, 24 refer specifically to the CFIA and how it can improve prevention strategies and regulatory oversight, surveillance and trend analysis, incident management and recall response and communication with the public about food safety.

The ink was barely dry on the report when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced his government’s response: a new inspection verification system with a team of 30 inspectors at a cost of $16 million over three years. “As we all know, no system is perfect,” said Ritz, who promised to implement all of the recommendations.

But NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said the report is a “damning indictment of his management of the entire food safety regime.”

It’s hard to argue with either of those statements.

© The Regina Leader-Post

Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Barry Wilson – The Western Producer

Food inspectors at the XL Foods plant, which triggered the largest beef recall in Canadian history last year, were not the source of the problem, says their union leader.

Bob Kingston, president of the agricultural union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said front-line inspectors were often following the lead of their managers.

“It was an open secret for a long time that there was a coziness between some of the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) people and the (meat packing) industry in Alberta,” he said.

“There were old school managers in that part of the country that were a bit of a problem. If they say there was a relaxed attitude (to food safety), some of that was a hangover and a lot of it has been addressed. Some of those managers have been replaced.”

An expert panel report on the E.

coli outbreak at the XL plant in Brooks, Alta., which was published in early June, said there was a “weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant shared by plant management and CFIA staff,” and the food safety crisis could have been averted.

CFIA president George Da Pont said part of the problem was the fact that many inspectors are embedded in plants for years, and “there is a possibility they might not be as rigorous after 10 or 15 years as they were at the start.”

Kingston said the report conclusion was startling for many Canadians.

Conversations with the panel during its work had made him “aware of the scenario out there, but I can see how a lot of people could have been alarmed and troubled.”

He said part of the problem was that some managers accepted the view that part of the CFIA mandate was to help trade “as a balanced mandate of the agency.”

Younger inspectors uncertain of their jobs would not necessarily challenge that view, particularly if managers and plant officials were close, he said.

“Often the inspectors were of the impression that the managers had taken the side of . let me put it another way because it isn’t about sides,” he said.

“If there was any push back from the facility, the impression the inspectors were given was to go a little easier, don’t be so hard on them. That kind of response from management does not encourage diligence.”

Kingston insisted that part of the problem is the lack of inspection staff and training.

He rejected the idea that an answer is to move staff regularly between plants so that they do not become too close to those they regulate.

Kingston, who is a former inspector, said that was tried in the 1990s.

“It was a logistical nightmare and an economic nightmare and it became an operational and morale nightmare as well.”

He accepted the argument that embedded inspectors could become too identified with their plant in some cases, imagining that they would be out of a job if they found problems that would close it down.

Instead, if they are properly trained, they would understand doing their job would make the plant better, enhance the reputation of the CFIA and preserve inspection jobs in the long run.

Instead of moving inspectors from plant to plant, a better solution is to not let them become isolated but to keep them in the CFIA loop, he said.

“If you allow people to be isolated from the CFIA culture in isolated locations, they can lose sight of the long-term objective,” he said.

“The potential is there, but there are better management tools available to deal with it than just uprooting people, which could simply end up with a demoralized and disloyal workforce.”

© The Western Producer

Video

New Threat to Our Food Safety

What’s at risk with cuts being made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency? PSAC Agriculture Union President Bob Kingston discusses.

View the Video

Latest Media Release:

CFIA reconsiders ill-advised meat inspection changes

For immediate release Ottawa (August 8, 2017) – New leadership at Canada’s food safety regulator is reconsidering changes to inspection procedures its former President planned to usher in under a program called “Inspection Modernization” amid warnings the changes...

Latest Briefing Note:

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health seeks clarification from the CFIA after the Agriculture Union disputes assurances given to the Committee by an Agency spokesperson about the frequency of meat inspection in Northern Alberta

Research shows most CFIA programs are currently short staffed approximately 30%. A survey of frontline inspectors that was characterized by the CFIA witness as an “overstatement” found that more than half (55%) describe the current complement of inspection staff in their immediate work group as “inadequate to complete all tasks needed to ensure compliance with food safety requirements”.

Latest Web Post:

Prevalent Food Fraud Unveiled #StopFishFraud

The first national study of its kind released just this morning has found widespread fraud in fish and seafood labelling in Canada. Oceana Canada, a non-profit group that works to protect and restore our oceans, found that 44% of nearly 400 samples of fish and seafood...

Food Safety in the News:

Canada’s E. coli outbreak steps lag U.S. because of caseloads: experts

The Canadian Press TORONTO — When news broke Tuesday that consumers should avoid eating romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swiftly demanded that retailers and restaurants remove it from store shelves and...

Media Requests:

13 + 1 =


Video

New Threat to Our Food Safety

What’s at risk with cuts being made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency? PSAC Agriculture Union President Bob Kingston discusses.

View the Video

Latest Media Release:

CFIA reconsiders ill-advised meat inspection changes

For immediate release Ottawa (August 8, 2017) – New leadership at Canada’s food safety regulator is reconsidering changes to inspection procedures its former President planned to usher in under a program called “Inspection Modernization” amid warnings the changes...

Latest Briefing Note:

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health seeks clarification from the CFIA after the Agriculture Union disputes assurances given to the Committee by an Agency spokesperson about the frequency of meat inspection in Northern Alberta

Research shows most CFIA programs are currently short staffed approximately 30%. A survey of frontline inspectors that was characterized by the CFIA witness as an “overstatement” found that more than half (55%) describe the current complement of inspection staff in their immediate work group as “inadequate to complete all tasks needed to ensure compliance with food safety requirements”.

Latest Web Post:

Prevalent Food Fraud Unveiled #StopFishFraud

The first national study of its kind released just this morning has found widespread fraud in fish and seafood labelling in Canada. Oceana Canada, a non-profit group that works to protect and restore our oceans, found that 44% of nearly 400 samples of fish and seafood...

Food Safety in the News:

Canada’s E. coli outbreak steps lag U.S. because of caseloads: experts

The Canadian Press TORONTO — When news broke Tuesday that consumers should avoid eating romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swiftly demanded that retailers and restaurants remove it from store shelves and...

Media Requests:

13 + 4 =


Barry Wilson – The Western Producer

Food inspectors at the XL Foods plant, which triggered the largest beef recall in Canadian history last year, were not the source of the problem, says their union leader.

Bob Kingston, president of the agricultural union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said front-line inspectors were often following the lead of their managers.

“It was an open secret for a long time that there was a coziness between some of the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) people and the (meat packing) industry in Alberta,” he said.

“There were old school managers in that part of the country that were a bit of a problem. If they say there was a relaxed attitude (to food safety), some of that was a hangover and a lot of it has been addressed. Some of those managers have been replaced.”

An expert panel report on the E.

coli outbreak at the XL plant in Brooks, Alta., which was published in early June, said there was a “weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant shared by plant management and CFIA staff,” and the food safety crisis could have been averted.

CFIA president George Da Pont said part of the problem was the fact that many inspectors are embedded in plants for years, and “there is a possibility they might not be as rigorous after 10 or 15 years as they were at the start.”

Kingston said the report conclusion was startling for many Canadians.

Conversations with the panel during its work had made him “aware of the scenario out there, but I can see how a lot of people could have been alarmed and troubled.”

He said part of the problem was that some managers accepted the view that part of the CFIA mandate was to help trade “as a balanced mandate of the agency.”

Younger inspectors uncertain of their jobs would not necessarily challenge that view, particularly if managers and plant officials were close, he said.

“Often the inspectors were of the impression that the managers had taken the side of . let me put it another way because it isn’t about sides,” he said.

“If there was any push back from the facility, the impression the inspectors were given was to go a little easier, don’t be so hard on them. That kind of response from management does not encourage diligence.”

Kingston insisted that part of the problem is the lack of inspection staff and training.

He rejected the idea that an answer is to move staff regularly between plants so that they do not become too close to those they regulate.

Kingston, who is a former inspector, said that was tried in the 1990s.

“It was a logistical nightmare and an economic nightmare and it became an operational and morale nightmare as well.”

He accepted the argument that embedded inspectors could become too identified with their plant in some cases, imagining that they would be out of a job if they found problems that would close it down.

Instead, if they are properly trained, they would understand doing their job would make the plant better, enhance the reputation of the CFIA and preserve inspection jobs in the long run.

Instead of moving inspectors from plant to plant, a better solution is to not let them become isolated but to keep them in the CFIA loop, he said.

“If you allow people to be isolated from the CFIA culture in isolated locations, they can lose sight of the long-term objective,” he said.

“The potential is there, but there are better management tools available to deal with it than just uprooting people, which could simply end up with a demoralized and disloyal workforce.”

© The Western Producer
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin?

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin?

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin 

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin?

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a “relaxed attitude” toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude? toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and?E. coli?O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.”

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
Linda Larsen – Food Poisoning Bulletin

The review of the XL Foods Inc. beef recall and E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year in Canada found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had a relaxed attitude toward safety standards and XL Foods did not act quickly enough to fix the problem. That outbreak, which occurred September and October 2012, sickened 18 people. The report lists similarities with the 2008 Listeria?outbreak, which killed at least 20 people.

Panel members met with beef producers and processors, health authorities and academics, the retail industry, and union representatives for XL Foods and the CFIA. Inadequate responses played the most critical part in the huge recall and outbreak. More than 1,800 products were removed from the market in Canada and in the United States.

The Panel said, “we found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures. We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred.

On September 4, 2012, CFIA inspectors received confirmation of E. coli O157:H7 in beef trimmings, which was traced back to XL Foods Inc.’s Brooks plant. On that same day, the CFIA was notified by the USDA’s FSIS that they had found E. coli O157:H7 in trimmings exported to the U.S.

The CFIA determined that the contaminated batch tested by FSIS wasn’t distributed to Canadians, so they decided not to issue a recall. Instead, they looked for the source of contamination and requested test and distribution information from XL Foods. It took XL Foods six days to provide the CFIA with that information.

Over the next 11 days, the CFIA worked with XL Foods. On September 12, USDA’s FSIS confirmed two positive samples and product was destroyed. On September 13, DNA results matched two illnesses in Canada with the samples tested at the U.S. border on August 30, 2012. But the formal recall wasn’t issued until September 15, 2012, and a Health Hazard Alert (HHA) wasn’t issued until September 16, 2012.

The Panel found that high event period days at XL Foods were not “as high on the agenda as they should have been.” High event periods (HEP) are periods in which slaughter establishments experience high rates of E. coli O157:H7 in trim samples. There was no indication that the company was identifying and analyzing results for trends and therefore couldn’t establish and correct the root cause of the problem. In addition, the CFIA identified non-compliance associated with high event periods as far back as December 2011. Products from entire shifts were released with no further action. And the CFIA inspectors were not notified of this issue.

In the U.S., FSIS recommends that establishments use a threshold of 5% positive tests before having to take correction action. XL Foods set the bar for an HEP at 10%. But in the last week of August 2012, E. coli O157:H7 was found in over 11% and just under 9% of samples tested, and the company took no action to determine the root cause of these trends.

Secondly, XL Foods was not applying its own Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) procedures and did not implement bracketing protocol, which removes containers of beef before and after the contaminated sample. Because the potentially contaminated beef wasn’t bracketed, it was shipped out of the plant. Therefore all products with the same production date had to be recalled. The CFIA wasn’t monitoring the company’s FSEP as closely as they should have.

Finally, XL Foods implemented a food safety plan in 2009, but did not improve it since then. They were using the N60 sampling protocol, but weren’t using the latest methodology (the N60+ sampler) which is more likely to detect contamination. XL Foods’ recordkeeping of monitoring activities and validation of procedures and equipment maintennce was deficient. And sampling techniques were inconsistent. XL Foods was also not reviewing its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan on a regular basis. XL Foods labeling did not have the information required by the CFIA to establish links between positive tests.

The CFIA stumbled too. The information first given to the Agency was coded and couldn’t be acted upon. CFIA made their initial information request verbally, which didn’t convey a sense of urgency. CFIA staff repeatedly extended deadlines for receiving required data. And the CFIA made many “non-prioritized” information requests. The Agency didn’t coordinate its requests through a single CFIA official, so the plant contact received similar requests from different people within the Agency. Finally, expanded recalls led to recall fatigue among the public.

In conclusion, it is the Panel’s view that “had XL Foods Inc. analyzed its E. coli O157:H7 sampling data and responded approrpiately to HEPs in late August, the contaminated shipments would likely have been contained and not left the plant. Secondly, a robust and well-managed FSEP may have prevented the contamination problem by ensuring an effective sanitation program and well-managed recall system. Lastly, the time the company took to submit required information allowed considerably more contaminated product to enter the marketplace than should ahve been the case.”

The Panel recommends that a strong food safety culture must be developed within plants, and adopted buy plant and CFIA staff at all levels. There must be greater emphasis on training and continuing education of CFIA inspection staff. Inspectors should devote less time to evaluating specimens for pathology and more time training protocols. The Minister of Health should assess the effectiveness of the Agency’s activities related to its meat program. The CFIA must enforce oversight responsibilities at the plant. And, among other recommendations, the CFIA should adopt a benchmark of 5% for E. coli O157:H7 in beef trim and expand the scope of contaminant testing to include non-O157:H7 STECs. The government has accepted all 30 recommendations and “has begun taking action,” according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

© PritzkerOlsen, P.A.
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

Federal health officials have expanded a burger recall first announced last week due to possible E.coli contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall initially involved Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers sold in packages of six in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The recall now includes Super 6 Beef Burgers sold in packages of 8 in Ontario Sobeys, Sobeys Urban, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper stores.

President’s Choice Beef Burgers in 4.54-kilogram packages in Loblaws banner stores and Webers Bucket of Burgers sold in 1.02 kilogram packages, also sold nationally, are also being recalled.

The CFIA said Toronto-based Belmont Meats Ltd. was voluntarily recalling the affected burgers and cautions that the recall may be expanded further.

After the initial recall was announced, health officials in southwestern Ontario said lab tests linked three cases of E. coli O157:H7 to the Compliments burgers. The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the three residents of London, Ont., were recovering.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled but may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Anyone showing signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, in particular stomach pain and severe or bloody diarrhea, should contact their doctor.

© The Canadian Press
Earlier this week, the government announced its decision to transfer the food safety mandate of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to Health Canada from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

We congratulate Minister Ambrose on this significant addition to her portfolio and sincerely wish her a successful stewardship of this critically important Agency.

We do, however, have serious concerns that this change is largely a cosmetic one that will have little positive impact on food safety outcomes in Canada.

Indeed, it could actually create new problems for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as the Minister of Agriculture will retain control of much of the CFIA’s work to ensure the health of plants and animals and their products produced in or imported into Canada. Thus the Agency now answers to two Ministers rather than just one.

In order to improve food safety in Canada, the government needs to reverse funding cuts and restore oversight and inspection functions that have been eliminated in recent years.

We hope this signals a new commitment on the part of the government for food safety and if it does we would expect a long over-due audit of resources needed at CFIA to properly deliver the new legislation Canadians have been told about. Without the necessary resources to deliver their mandate CFIA will be no better off under any new Minister.