CTV News Calgary

Sept. 28, 2012

 
CTV News Calgary

Sept. 28, 2012

The recall of potentially E. coli-tainted beef products from XL Foods Inc. was expanded Saturday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has now added beef products carried by some Co-op stores to the growing list.

Many of these stores have already removed the products from their shelves, and have disinfected their meat freezers.

For a full list of recalled products, stores, and best before dates CLICK HERE.

CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier has said the list of more than 200 products is expected to grow.

On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanded the Health Hazard Alert by adding whole muscle cuts to the list of previously recalled ground beef products from XL Foods.

The CFIA says the meat processing company will release a full list of the affected products shortly and that further investigation is underway to trace the specific brands and products affected.

The XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks was handed a temporary suspension on Thursday which will remain in effect until the company fulfills the requirements set out by the CFIA.

The CFIA says that XL Foods did attempt to make moves to handle the recall, but it wasn’t enough.

The agency says the recall came two weeks after the initial discovery of contaminated beef in a shipment to the U.S.

Concern about the recall also made its way into question period Friday on Parliament Hill, with NDP and Liberal MPs blasting Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for cuts they said the Conservatives had made to food inspection.

“Why did it take so long for officials to act and why isn’t the government putting the health and safety of Canadians first?” asked NDP MP Libby Davies, whose comments were echoed by fellow NDP MP Nycole Turmel.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale garnered boos from the Conservative caucus when he charged that similar complacency about food safety had led to the Walkerton tragedy, which resulted in several deaths after people drank contaminated water in Walkerton, Ont. in 2000.

Ritz countered that the government is providing CFIA with the resources it needs and said the system is working as it’s supposed to.

“The timeline backstops the fact our system does work,” he said. “There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli.”

The nation-wide beef recall has affected hundred of products and stores across Canada.

The recall has also expanded south of the border, with a public health alert expanding to stores in another 30 U.S. states.

The first alert in the U.S. came when a shipment of beef headed to the country was stopped at the border in early September when inspectors detected the presence of E. coli.

The CFIA says that if you have concerns about beef that you’ve bought, throw it out or take it back to the store.

They also advise people to use a meat thermometer to cook your beef to a temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit because E. coli can be destroyed by heat.

© CTV News
CTV News Calgary

Sept. 28, 2012

The recall of potentially E. coli-tainted beef products from XL Foods Inc. was expanded Saturday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has now added beef products carried by some Co-op stores to the growing list.

Many of these stores have already removed the products from their shelves, and have disinfected their meat freezers.

For a full list of recalled products, stores, and best before dates CLICK HERE.

CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier has said the list of more than 200 products is expected to grow.

On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanded the Health Hazard Alert by adding whole muscle cuts to the list of previously recalled ground beef products from XL Foods.

The CFIA says the meat processing company will release a full list of the affected products shortly and that further investigation is underway to trace the specific brands and products affected.

The XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks was handed a temporary suspension on Thursday which will remain in effect until the company fulfills the requirements set out by the CFIA.

The CFIA says that XL Foods did attempt to make moves to handle the recall, but it wasn’t enough.

The agency says the recall came two weeks after the initial discovery of contaminated beef in a shipment to the U.S.

Concern about the recall also made its way into question period Friday on Parliament Hill, with NDP and Liberal MPs blasting Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for cuts they said the Conservatives had made to food inspection.

“Why did it take so long for officials to act and why isn’t the government putting the health and safety of Canadians first?” asked NDP MP Libby Davies, whose comments were echoed by fellow NDP MP Nycole Turmel.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale garnered boos from the Conservative caucus when he charged that similar complacency about food safety had led to the Walkerton tragedy, which resulted in several deaths after people drank contaminated water in Walkerton, Ont. in 2000.

Ritz countered that the government is providing CFIA with the resources it needs and said the system is working as it’s supposed to.

“The timeline backstops the fact our system does work,” he said. “There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli.”

The nation-wide beef recall has affected hundred of products and stores across Canada.

The recall has also expanded south of the border, with a public health alert expanding to stores in another 30 U.S. states.

The first alert in the U.S. came when a shipment of beef headed to the country was stopped at the border in early September when inspectors detected the presence of E. coli.

The CFIA says that if you have concerns about beef that you’ve bought, throw it out or take it back to the store.

They also advise people to use a meat thermometer to cook your beef to a temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit because E. coli can be destroyed by heat.

© CTV News
Josh Wingrove – The Globe and Mail

Sept. 28, 2012

An Alberta beef processing plant has been shut down indefinitely as federal investigators continue to trace the effects of an E. coli outbreak, one that sickened at least four people in the province.

XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alta., was shut down Thursday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said “ several deficiencies” had not been “completely corrected” since the recall began earlier this month. It now includes ground beef from hundreds of products, as well as steaks sold at an Edmonton Costco store.

Alberta Health Services is investigating nine illnesses tied to E. coli, but only four have been definitively tied to a food source: the steaks. The CFIA has said both the steaks and recalled ground beef are linked to XL Foods’ plant, though it’s not clear where along the supply line the steaks were contaminated. The CFIA has no reported illnesses in other provinces.

The recalls and illnesses come after a slaughter on Aug. 23, and production on Aug. 24, Aug. 27, Aug. 28, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, 2012. But officials have faced questions from both Alberta Premier Alison Redford and federal New Democrats on why the first recall and public notice was not issued until Sept. 16.

CFIA Chief Food Safety Officer Brian Evans defended the decision, saying initial tests revealed only what were thought to be isolated cases, none of which had hit store shelves. Another flag was raised on Sept. 12, which led to a broad investigation beginning Sept. 13, and a recall three days later.

Still, it took more than three weeks from slaughter to recall, and over a week from when products hit store shelves, for any public notice to be issued.

“Our actions were and continue to be guided by science-based evidence and a commitment to public health,” Dr. Evans said Friday morning. “…I believe we’ve acted responsibly once we had evidence that’s suggestive [of an outbreak].”

The XL Foods plant will be closed, with all the meat currently under CFIA “detention,” until XL Foods officials “have demonstrated that they have fully implemented CFIA’s required corrective actions.” The meat in the plant may still be released for sale, but only once it’s tested for E. coli.

E. coli is a food-borne bacteria that causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. The bacteria itself is, however, commonly seen, though outbreaks are rare. “The detection of E. coli in slaughterhouses is not uncommon,” Dr. Evans said.

The recall is wide-reaching, including 316 products from stores in 10 provinces and two territories across Canada as of Friday morning (only Nunavut is exempt). The recall also affects stores in 32 American states and Puerto Rico. The U.S. has halted imports from XL Foods. American food inspectors first noted a problem during a border check on Sept. 3 (one day before the Canadians), but issued its first public notice on Sept. 20.

Consumers are being told to return any affected beef to the store where they bought it, throw it away or, if they insist on cooking it, to ensure it’s well-cooked to kill off the E. coli bacteria.

XL Foods, which bills itself as the largest Canadian owned and operated beef processor, is working with federal officials to correct its procedures and restart production, he said. “My take, at this point in time, is the company is cooperating with us to do the work that needs to be done,” Dr. Evans said.

The XL Foods plant has over 2,000 employees. The company stressed none of its products have been tied directly to an illness. (The CFIA says Costco steaks did pass through the plant, but it’s not clear if they became contaminated there or later). “Even though there has been no definitive link between our products and people who have become ill, we are very concerned for their well-being and are working in their interest,” the company said in a statement.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was under fire in Question Period Friday morning over the recall, asked why a recall took so long. New Democrat MP Nycole Turmel also pressed Mr. Ritz on what she called a “politically dangerous experiment” – why the federal government leaves much of the monitoring up to companies, under federal supervision, rather than directly inspecting themselves.

Mr. Ritz rejected the questions, saying the fact that there has been no major outbreak is a sign the system is working. The XL Foods plant has 40 federal food inspectors and six veterinarians to cover two shifts, an increase of six staff positions from three years ago.

“The timeline actually backstops the fact that our system does work. There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli. E. coli exists across the country on a daily basis. Having said that, this government is focused on food safety,” Mr. Ritz told the House of Commons.

The government is rolling the dice by reducing front-line meat inspection, said Bob Jackson, a former meat inspector who now works as B.C.’s regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“I think it does point to a bigger issue. There has been a systemic change in the way inspections are done in these large facilities… whereby most of the inspection sampling, the day-to-day work that was done in the past by CFIA inspectors, is now done by plant personnel,” Mr. Jackson said. “They’ve been steadily increasing, I guess, the amount of responsibility that goes to the plants. And I think, in this case, it raises the spectre that that certainly could have been an issue here.”

PSAC has said $56-million in CFIA cuts will cost it at least 100 food inspector positions. Dr. Evans denied that any inspector positions have been, or will be, cut at the Brooks cattle plant.

© The Globe and Mail
CTV News Calgary

Sept. 28, 2012

The recall of potentially E. coli-tainted beef products from XL Foods Inc. was expanded Saturday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has now added beef products carried by some Co-op stores to the growing list.

Many of these stores have already removed the products from their shelves, and have disinfected their meat freezers.

For a full list of recalled products, stores, and best before dates CLICK HERE.

CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier has said the list of more than 200 products is expected to grow.

On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanded the Health Hazard Alert by adding whole muscle cuts to the list of previously recalled ground beef products from XL Foods.

The CFIA says the meat processing company will release a full list of the affected products shortly and that further investigation is underway to trace the specific brands and products affected.

The XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks was handed a temporary suspension on Thursday which will remain in effect until the company fulfills the requirements set out by the CFIA.

The CFIA says that XL Foods did attempt to make moves to handle the recall, but it wasn’t enough.

The agency says the recall came two weeks after the initial discovery of contaminated beef in a shipment to the U.S.

Concern about the recall also made its way into question period Friday on Parliament Hill, with NDP and Liberal MPs blasting Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for cuts they said the Conservatives had made to food inspection.

“Why did it take so long for officials to act and why isn’t the government putting the health and safety of Canadians first?” asked NDP MP Libby Davies, whose comments were echoed by fellow NDP MP Nycole Turmel.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale garnered boos from the Conservative caucus when he charged that similar complacency about food safety had led to the Walkerton tragedy, which resulted in several deaths after people drank contaminated water in Walkerton, Ont. in 2000.

Ritz countered that the government is providing CFIA with the resources it needs and said the system is working as it’s supposed to.

“The timeline backstops the fact our system does work,” he said. “There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli.”

The nation-wide beef recall has affected hundred of products and stores across Canada.

The recall has also expanded south of the border, with a public health alert expanding to stores in another 30 U.S. states.

The first alert in the U.S. came when a shipment of beef headed to the country was stopped at the border in early September when inspectors detected the presence of E. coli.

The CFIA says that if you have concerns about beef that you’ve bought, throw it out or take it back to the store.

They also advise people to use a meat thermometer to cook your beef to a temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit because E. coli can be destroyed by heat.

© CTV News
Josh Wingrove – The Globe and Mail

Sept. 28, 2012

An Alberta beef processing plant has been shut down indefinitely as federal investigators continue to trace the effects of an E. coli outbreak, one that sickened at least four people in the province.

XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alta., was shut down Thursday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said “ several deficiencies” had not been “completely corrected” since the recall began earlier this month. It now includes ground beef from hundreds of products, as well as steaks sold at an Edmonton Costco store.

Alberta Health Services is investigating nine illnesses tied to E. coli, but only four have been definitively tied to a food source: the steaks. The CFIA has said both the steaks and recalled ground beef are linked to XL Foods’ plant, though it’s not clear where along the supply line the steaks were contaminated. The CFIA has no reported illnesses in other provinces.

The recalls and illnesses come after a slaughter on Aug. 23, and production on Aug. 24, Aug. 27, Aug. 28, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, 2012. But officials have faced questions from both Alberta Premier Alison Redford and federal New Democrats on why the first recall and public notice was not issued until Sept. 16.

CFIA Chief Food Safety Officer Brian Evans defended the decision, saying initial tests revealed only what were thought to be isolated cases, none of which had hit store shelves. Another flag was raised on Sept. 12, which led to a broad investigation beginning Sept. 13, and a recall three days later.

Still, it took more than three weeks from slaughter to recall, and over a week from when products hit store shelves, for any public notice to be issued.

“Our actions were and continue to be guided by science-based evidence and a commitment to public health,” Dr. Evans said Friday morning. “…I believe we’ve acted responsibly once we had evidence that’s suggestive [of an outbreak].”

The XL Foods plant will be closed, with all the meat currently under CFIA “detention,” until XL Foods officials “have demonstrated that they have fully implemented CFIA’s required corrective actions.” The meat in the plant may still be released for sale, but only once it’s tested for E. coli.

E. coli is a food-borne bacteria that causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. The bacteria itself is, however, commonly seen, though outbreaks are rare. “The detection of E. coli in slaughterhouses is not uncommon,” Dr. Evans said.

The recall is wide-reaching, including 316 products from stores in 10 provinces and two territories across Canada as of Friday morning (only Nunavut is exempt). The recall also affects stores in 32 American states and Puerto Rico. The U.S. has halted imports from XL Foods. American food inspectors first noted a problem during a border check on Sept. 3 (one day before the Canadians), but issued its first public notice on Sept. 20.

Consumers are being told to return any affected beef to the store where they bought it, throw it away or, if they insist on cooking it, to ensure it’s well-cooked to kill off the E. coli bacteria.

XL Foods, which bills itself as the largest Canadian owned and operated beef processor, is working with federal officials to correct its procedures and restart production, he said. “My take, at this point in time, is the company is cooperating with us to do the work that needs to be done,” Dr. Evans said.

The XL Foods plant has over 2,000 employees. The company stressed none of its products have been tied directly to an illness. (The CFIA says Costco steaks did pass through the plant, but it’s not clear if they became contaminated there or later). “Even though there has been no definitive link between our products and people who have become ill, we are very concerned for their well-being and are working in their interest,” the company said in a statement.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was under fire in Question Period Friday morning over the recall, asked why a recall took so long. New Democrat MP Nycole Turmel also pressed Mr. Ritz on what she called a “politically dangerous experiment” – why the federal government leaves much of the monitoring up to companies, under federal supervision, rather than directly inspecting themselves.

Mr. Ritz rejected the questions, saying the fact that there has been no major outbreak is a sign the system is working. The XL Foods plant has 40 federal food inspectors and six veterinarians to cover two shifts, an increase of six staff positions from three years ago.

“The timeline actually backstops the fact that our system does work. There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli. E. coli exists across the country on a daily basis. Having said that, this government is focused on food safety,” Mr. Ritz told the House of Commons.

The government is rolling the dice by reducing front-line meat inspection, said Bob Jackson, a former meat inspector who now works as B.C.’s regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“I think it does point to a bigger issue. There has been a systemic change in the way inspections are done in these large facilities… whereby most of the inspection sampling, the day-to-day work that was done in the past by CFIA inspectors, is now done by plant personnel,” Mr. Jackson said. “They’ve been steadily increasing, I guess, the amount of responsibility that goes to the plants. And I think, in this case, it raises the spectre that that certainly could have been an issue here.”

PSAC has said $56-million in CFIA cuts will cost it at least 100 food inspector positions. Dr. Evans denied that any inspector positions have been, or will be, cut at the Brooks cattle plant.

© The Globe and Mail
Josh Wingrove – The Globe and Mail

Sept. 28, 2012

An Alberta beef processing plant has been shut down indefinitely as federal investigators continue to trace the effects of an E. coli outbreak, one that sickened at least four people in the province.

XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alta., was shut down Thursday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said “ several deficiencies” had not been “completely corrected” since the recall began earlier this month. It now includes ground beef from hundreds of products, as well as steaks sold at an Edmonton Costco store.

Alberta Health Services is investigating nine illnesses tied to E. coli, but only four have been definitively tied to a food source: the steaks. The CFIA has said both the steaks and recalled ground beef are linked to XL Foods’ plant, though it’s not clear where along the supply line the steaks were contaminated. The CFIA has no reported illnesses in other provinces.

The recalls and illnesses come after a slaughter on Aug. 23, and production on Aug. 24, Aug. 27, Aug. 28, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, 2012. But officials have faced questions from both Alberta Premier Alison Redford and federal New Democrats on why the first recall and public notice was not issued until Sept. 16.

CFIA Chief Food Safety Officer Brian Evans defended the decision, saying initial tests revealed only what were thought to be isolated cases, none of which had hit store shelves. Another flag was raised on Sept. 12, which led to a broad investigation beginning Sept. 13, and a recall three days later.

Still, it took more than three weeks from slaughter to recall, and over a week from when products hit store shelves, for any public notice to be issued.

“Our actions were and continue to be guided by science-based evidence and a commitment to public health,” Dr. Evans said Friday morning. “…I believe we’ve acted responsibly once we had evidence that’s suggestive [of an outbreak].”

The XL Foods plant will be closed, with all the meat currently under CFIA “detention,” until XL Foods officials “have demonstrated that they have fully implemented CFIA’s required corrective actions.” The meat in the plant may still be released for sale, but only once it’s tested for E. coli.

E. coli is a food-borne bacteria that causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. The bacteria itself is, however, commonly seen, though outbreaks are rare. “The detection of E. coli in slaughterhouses is not uncommon,” Dr. Evans said.

The recall is wide-reaching, including 316 products from stores in 10 provinces and two territories across Canada as of Friday morning (only Nunavut is exempt). The recall also affects stores in 32 American states and Puerto Rico. The U.S. has halted imports from XL Foods. American food inspectors first noted a problem during a border check on Sept. 3 (one day before the Canadians), but issued its first public notice on Sept. 20.

Consumers are being told to return any affected beef to the store where they bought it, throw it away or, if they insist on cooking it, to ensure it’s well-cooked to kill off the E. coli bacteria.

XL Foods, which bills itself as the largest Canadian owned and operated beef processor, is working with federal officials to correct its procedures and restart production, he said. “My take, at this point in time, is the company is cooperating with us to do the work that needs to be done,” Dr. Evans said.

The XL Foods plant has over 2,000 employees. The company stressed none of its products have been tied directly to an illness. (The CFIA says Costco steaks did pass through the plant, but it’s not clear if they became contaminated there or later). “Even though there has been no definitive link between our products and people who have become ill, we are very concerned for their well-being and are working in their interest,” the company said in a statement.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was under fire in Question Period Friday morning over the recall, asked why a recall took so long. New Democrat MP Nycole Turmel also pressed Mr. Ritz on what she called a “politically dangerous experiment” – why the federal government leaves much of the monitoring up to companies, under federal supervision, rather than directly inspecting themselves.

Mr. Ritz rejected the questions, saying the fact that there has been no major outbreak is a sign the system is working. The XL Foods plant has 40 federal food inspectors and six veterinarians to cover two shifts, an increase of six staff positions from three years ago.

“The timeline actually backstops the fact that our system does work. There is no endemic situation out there from E. coli. E. coli exists across the country on a daily basis. Having said that, this government is focused on food safety,” Mr. Ritz told the House of Commons.

The government is rolling the dice by reducing front-line meat inspection, said Bob Jackson, a former meat inspector who now works as B.C.’s regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“I think it does point to a bigger issue. There has been a systemic change in the way inspections are done in these large facilities… whereby most of the inspection sampling, the day-to-day work that was done in the past by CFIA inspectors, is now done by plant personnel,” Mr. Jackson said. “They’ve been steadily increasing, I guess, the amount of responsibility that goes to the plants. And I think, in this case, it raises the spectre that that certainly could have been an issue here.”

PSAC has said $56-million in CFIA cuts will cost it at least 100 food inspector positions. Dr. Evans denied that any inspector positions have been, or will be, cut at the Brooks cattle plant.

 
Bill Kaufmann – The Toronto Sun

Sept. 28, 2012

CALGARY — In the wake of an E. coli-driven closure of a large Alberta meat plant, consumers were told Friday to brace for widening recalls of potentially tainted beef.

That warning came on the same day the number of Albertans infected with E. coli since the scare began climbed from eight to nine.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has temporarily suspended the licence of XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, in southeastern Alberta.

All products at that plant are under CFIA “detention and control,” the agency said.

“XL Foods Inc. will not resume operations until they have demonstrated they have fully implemented the CFIA’s corrective actions,” said the agency’s Dr. Brian Evans.

He also said the coming days will see an expansion in the list of suspect beef products produced Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29 and Sept. 5 at XL Foods, a list that on Friday sat at about 250.

Operators of the plant at Brooks, which employs about 2,200 people, wouldn’t comment on the situation on Friday.

A recorded message on the company’s media line said there’s been no definite E. Coli link to the facility but expressed sympathy for any of the infected victims and indicated they would enhance safety measures.

Evans defended his agency’s handling of the outbreak, despite a two-week lapse between the time it first became aware of the problem, Sept. 4, and the time it began announcing recalls.

It took time to put together the puzzle of information to sound the alarm, Evans said.

“We were not getting signals to suggest the product was a concern … from my perspective, we’ve acted responsibly once we received evidence to act on,” he said.

The Brooks plant processes 35-40% of the province’s daily beef supply, and its loss, even temporarily, is a concern, said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association.

“There are two major plants in the province — it is serious to have this happen,” Laycraft said.

The recall has spread to stores in at least 30 U.S. states.

Laycraft and Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said the first priority is to get the Brooks facility operating again quickly. Olson was unwilling to condemn Ottawa’s handling of the episode.

“I’m not going to be spending all my time throwing people under the bus — I want it fixed,” he said.

Of the nine recent E. coli victims in the province, four have been linked to steaks sold at an Edmonton Costco store, Alberta Health officials said.

With Brooks’ massive beef plant ground to a halt, some citizens with links to the industry are nervous about their town’s future.

Even though some of the plant’s workers are now busy cleaning the facility, others have been temporarily idled and say losing Brooks’ biggest employer has beefed up anxiety.

“Everybody’s depending on this plant,” said Addikani Amhed, who works at the facility.

“The closure is a negative aspect — it’ll affect the houses and maybe people will move out.”

 © The Toronto Sun

Bill Kaufmann – The Toronto Sun

Sept. 28, 2012

CALGARY — In the wake of an E. coli-driven closure of a large Alberta meat plant, consumers were told Friday to brace for widening recalls of potentially tainted beef.

That warning came on the same day the number of Albertans infected with E. coli since the scare began climbed from eight to nine.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has temporarily suspended the licence of XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, in southeastern Alberta.

All products at that plant are under CFIA “detention and control,” the agency said.

“XL Foods Inc. will not resume operations until they have demonstrated they have fully implemented the CFIA’s corrective actions,” said the agency’s Dr. Brian Evans.

He also said the coming days will see an expansion in the list of suspect beef products produced Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29 and Sept. 5 at XL Foods, a list that on Friday sat at about 250.

Operators of the plant at Brooks, which employs about 2,200 people, wouldn’t comment on the situation on Friday.

A recorded message on the company’s media line said there’s been no definite E. Coli link to the facility but expressed sympathy for any of the infected victims and indicated they would enhance safety measures.

Evans defended his agency’s handling of the outbreak, despite a two-week lapse between the time it first became aware of the problem, Sept. 4, and the time it began announcing recalls.

It took time to put together the puzzle of information to sound the alarm, Evans said.

“We were not getting signals to suggest the product was a concern … from my perspective, we’ve acted responsibly once we received evidence to act on,” he said.

The Brooks plant processes 35-40% of the province’s daily beef supply, and its loss, even temporarily, is a concern, said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association.

“There are two major plants in the province — it is serious to have this happen,” Laycraft said.

The recall has spread to stores in at least 30 U.S. states.

Laycraft and Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said the first priority is to get the Brooks facility operating again quickly. Olson was unwilling to condemn Ottawa’s handling of the episode.

“I’m not going to be spending all my time throwing people under the bus — I want it fixed,” he said.

Of the nine recent E. coli victims in the province, four have been linked to steaks sold at an Edmonton Costco store, Alberta Health officials said.

With Brooks’ massive beef plant ground to a halt, some citizens with links to the industry are nervous about their town’s future.

Even though some of the plant’s workers are now busy cleaning the facility, others have been temporarily idled and say losing Brooks’ biggest employer has beefed up anxiety.

“Everybody’s depending on this plant,” said Addikani Amhed, who works at the facility.

“The closure is a negative aspect — it’ll affect the houses and maybe people will move out.”

 © The Toronto Sun

Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Presented by Bob Kingston, Oct 2, 2012

Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, it is a pleasure to be here this evening to discuss Bill S-11.

By way of introduction, the Agriculture Union represents all federal employees working in the federal agriculture portfolio.  I am a full time officer, on leave from the CFIA where I have 25 years experience as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

Without a commitment on the part of the government to ensure adequate resources are available Canadians cannot expect improvements in food safety outcomes from this Bill alone.

Too often budget has been the main determining factor in the design and/or delivery of  CFIA’s inspection and food safety program, exposing Canadians to higher risk than should be the case.

If we are not careful, the successful enactment of Bill S-11, as well as CFIA’s new Inspection Modernization initiative could fall victim to these pressures as did the Compliance Verification System, or CVS, before them.

Cast your memories back to the summer of 2008, just months before the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak.

The CFIA had just launched CVS.

Without a serious pilot phase and before any lessons learned in development could be implemented, the Agency had no idea how many inspectors were needed to do the job under CVS or what skills and training they might require.

At the same time, more direct inspection oversight was retired deliberately or because inspectors, overwhelmed by the paper work demands of the new system, could not keep up with their more traditional duties.

Then the perfect storm of the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak occurred.  We all know what happened.

It’s worth re-visiting some of the observations Sheila Weatherill included in her report.

She found that the Compliance Verification System was flawed and in need – and I quote – of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”.

She also found that the CVS was – and I quote again – “implemented without a detailed assessment of the resources available to take on these new (CVS) tasks.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 disaster, it was discovered that Maple Leaf was under no obligation to report to the CFIA test results showing contamination in the plant.

In a system which increasingly relies on companies to police themselves, this shortcoming was addressed.

Now all companies have a mandatory duty to test and report positive results to the CFIA.

Fast forward to today.

XL Foods, one of the biggest meat processors in the country, has just thumbed their noses at this requirement, and the CFIA did not have the resources in place to fully understand what was going on in that plant.

How could this be, you might wonder.  After all, Minister Ritz has assured everyone that there are more inspectors working at that plant than ever.

You will be interested to know that at the XL plant only a small portion of inspectors are fully trained in CVS.

That’s right.

More than four years after CVS was introduced, most inspectors there have not been trained in how to use it.

Why?

There’s a simple answer.

CFIA cannot afford to deliver the training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away being trained.  As well, resources are often diverted to address crises which further derails training.

Because of the pace of production and other factors, those with CVS knowhow at the XL plant did not always share the results of CFIA conducted CVS tasks and tests so other inspectors would have no idea if there was a problem that required heightened vigilance.

This situation is not isolated to XL.

This is yet another example of industry self-policing gone wrong because the CFIA is not adequately resourced to verify compliance.

Returning to the matter before this committee…

Many say that S-11 will make imported food safer because importers will be required to obtain a license from the CFIA.

This could be more illusory than real with the cuts at the Agency this year.

Who will oversee the 10,000 new licencees the CFIA estimates will be covered by this new requirement to ensure they are in compliance with safety requirements?

As a result of downsizing in the federal public service, approximately 170 administrative staff positions at the CFIA have been eliminated.

These are the people who would initiate, evaluate, approve and monitor the performance of these new licencees.  With 100 fewer inspectors on the job – again as a result of downsizing in the public service – you can see that this new licensing regime could potentially be  little more than a paper exercise.

Back to Weatherill for a moment.

She recommended an independent resources audit to – and I quote again – “accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors”.

While CFIA did not conduct such an audit, it did review the situation in the processed meat program. The result was that the Agency almost doubled its complement of processed meat inspectors.

I hazard to guess that if the CFIA did a similar review of its other inspections programs like fish and meat hygiene slaughter, they would find that a similar upward adjustment is required to adequately deliver those programs.

I urge the committee to amend this bill to make such a review mandatory.

I note that an amendment has been put forward by the government, but it does not require an resource audit of CFIA until five years after this bill becomes law.  That’s like crossing your fingers and hoping nothing bad happens for five years.  We already know CFIA has a problem.  Don’t wait for another outbreak before addressing it.

The government’s amendment does not require the results of the audit to be made public.  This shortcoming must be fixed as well.

One final point.

I mentioned that the CFIA is currently revising its inspection program which is likely to involve a reallocation of resources.  I am concerned that executives at the CFIA will see Meat Hygiene Slaughter as resource rich.

In something akin to moving deck chairs on the Titanic, CFIA may think they can rob the program that let us down at XL Foods and reallocate resources to other areas which need to be shored up.

In closing, if Canada’s food safety system is to be a true partnership between government and industry, self-policing on the part of food companies must be reigned in.

To paraphrase the words of Ronald Regan: don’s simply trust; verify.

With a cop in the rearview mirror, people obey the traffic laws.  The same holds true in the food industry.
Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Presented by Bob Kingston, Oct 2, 2012

Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, it is a pleasure to be here this evening to discuss Bill S-11.

By way of introduction, the Agriculture Union represents all federal employees working in the federal agriculture portfolio.  I am a full time officer, on leave from the CFIA where I have 25 years experience as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

Without a commitment on the part of the government to ensure adequate resources are available Canadians cannot expect improvements in food safety outcomes from this Bill alone.

Too often budget has been the main determining factor in the design and/or delivery of  CFIA’s inspection and food safety program, exposing Canadians to higher risk than should be the case.

If we are not careful, the successful enactment of Bill S-11, as well as CFIA’s new Inspection Modernization initiative could fall victim to these pressures as did the Compliance Verification System, or CVS, before them.

Cast your memories back to the summer of 2008, just months before the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak.

The CFIA had just launched CVS.

Without a serious pilot phase and before any lessons learned in development could be implemented, the Agency had no idea how many inspectors were needed to do the job under CVS or what skills and training they might require.

At the same time, more direct inspection oversight was retired deliberately or because inspectors, overwhelmed by the paper work demands of the new system, could not keep up with their more traditional duties.

Then the perfect storm of the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak occurred.  We all know what happened.

It’s worth re-visiting some of the observations Sheila Weatherill included in her report.

She found that the Compliance Verification System was flawed and in need – and I quote – of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”.

She also found that the CVS was – and I quote again – “implemented without a detailed assessment of the resources available to take on these new (CVS) tasks.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 disaster, it was discovered that Maple Leaf was under no obligation to report to the CFIA test results showing contamination in the plant.

In a system which increasingly relies on companies to police themselves, this shortcoming was addressed.

Now all companies have a mandatory duty to test and report positive results to the CFIA.

Fast forward to today.

XL Foods, one of the biggest meat processors in the country, has just thumbed their noses at this requirement, and the CFIA did not have the resources in place to fully understand what was going on in that plant.

How could this be, you might wonder.  After all, Minister Ritz has assured everyone that there are more inspectors working at that plant than ever.

You will be interested to know that at the XL plant only a small portion of inspectors are fully trained in CVS.

That’s right.

More than four years after CVS was introduced, most inspectors there have not been trained in how to use it.

Why?

There’s a simple answer.

CFIA cannot afford to deliver the training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away being trained.  As well, resources are often diverted to address crises which further derails training.

Because of the pace of production and other factors, those with CVS knowhow at the XL plant did not always share the results of CFIA conducted CVS tasks and tests so other inspectors would have no idea if there was a problem that required heightened vigilance.

This situation is not isolated to XL.

This is yet another example of industry self-policing gone wrong because the CFIA is not adequately resourced to verify compliance.

Returning to the matter before this committee…

Many say that S-11 will make imported food safer because importers will be required to obtain a license from the CFIA.

This could be more illusory than real with the cuts at the Agency this year.

Who will oversee the 10,000 new licencees the CFIA estimates will be covered by this new requirement to ensure they are in compliance with safety requirements?

As a result of downsizing in the federal public service, approximately 170 administrative staff positions at the CFIA have been eliminated.

These are the people who would initiate, evaluate, approve and monitor the performance of these new licencees.  With 100 fewer inspectors on the job – again as a result of downsizing in the public service – you can see that this new licensing regime could potentially be  little more than a paper exercise.

Back to Weatherill for a moment.

She recommended an independent resources audit to – and I quote again – “accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors”.

While CFIA did not conduct such an audit, it did review the situation in the processed meat program. The result was that the Agency almost doubled its complement of processed meat inspectors.

I hazard to guess that if the CFIA did a similar review of its other inspections programs like fish and meat hygiene slaughter, they would find that a similar upward adjustment is required to adequately deliver those programs.

I urge the committee to amend this bill to make such a review mandatory.

I note that an amendment has been put forward by the government, but it does not require an resource audit of CFIA until five years after this bill becomes law.  That’s like crossing your fingers and hoping nothing bad happens for five years.  We already know CFIA has a problem.  Don’t wait for another outbreak before addressing it.

The government’s amendment does not require the results of the audit to be made public.  This shortcoming must be fixed as well.

One final point.

I mentioned that the CFIA is currently revising its inspection program which is likely to involve a reallocation of resources.  I am concerned that executives at the CFIA will see Meat Hygiene Slaughter as resource rich.

In something akin to moving deck chairs on the Titanic, CFIA may think they can rob the program that let us down at XL Foods and reallocate resources to other areas which need to be shored up.

In closing, if Canada’s food safety system is to be a true partnership between government and industry, self-policing on the part of food companies must be reigned in.

To paraphrase the words of Ronald Regan: don’s simply trust; verify.

With a cop in the rearview mirror, people obey the traffic laws.  The same holds true in the food industry.
Presented by Bob Kingston, Oct 2, 2012

 
Rod Nickel – Drovers

Sept. 28, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants after contaminated beef products, that were distributed across Canada and the United States, sickened several people.

The operators of privately held XL Foods’ plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, which has led to numerous product recalls this month, the CFIA said on Friday.

Nine people in Alberta have fallen ill after eating meat tainted with the bacteria, including four who ate steaks bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta, according to the province’s health ministry.

The government agency said it was in control of all products at the plant, which will not resume operations until XL fully implements CFIA’s required corrective actions.

CFIA has not confirmed who supplied the tainted meat related to the illnesses.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company’s officials did not return messages for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.

VOLUNTARY RECALL

Beginning in mid-September, XL Foods voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA’s review of the plant’s food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

Opposition legislators accused the Canadian government on Friday of acting too slowly and of contributing to the problem by cutting food inspector positions earlier this year in an aggressive round of budget cuts.

But Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees CFIA, said the government has added inspectors, and employs 46 on a daily basis at the Brooks plant.

“Canadians can count on the fact that this government is focused on food safety,” he said at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Dr Brian Evans, the CFIA’s chief food safety officer, defended the agency’s response to the tainted meat. CFIA announced XL Foods’ first product recall on Sept. 16, two weeks after CFIA inspectors detected the bacteria in XL products.

“We were, 24 hours, pedal to the metal, in the plant through the weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk,” Evans told reporters.

By Sept. 16, CFIA decided it needed to take action and some products were recalled.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL’s Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers’ options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

“If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up,” he said, adding it was fortunate there weren’t large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the company was confident its own plants had procedures in place to minimize risks of food-borne illnesses.

XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

© Drovers Cattle Network

Presented by Bob Kingston, Oct 2, 2012

Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, it is a pleasure to be here this evening to discuss Bill S-11.

By way of introduction, the Agriculture Union represents all federal employees working in the federal agriculture portfolio.  I am a full time officer, on leave from the CFIA where I have 25 years experience as an inspector including 15 years as an inspection supervisor.

Without a commitment on the part of the government to ensure adequate resources are available Canadians cannot expect improvements in food safety outcomes from this Bill alone.

Too often budget has been the main determining factor in the design and/or delivery of  CFIA’s inspection and food safety program, exposing Canadians to higher risk than should be the case.

If we are not careful, the successful enactment of Bill S-11, as well as CFIA’s new Inspection Modernization initiative could fall victim to these pressures as did the Compliance Verification System, or CVS, before them.

Cast your memories back to the summer of 2008, just months before the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak.

The CFIA had just launched CVS.

Without a serious pilot phase and before any lessons learned in development could be implemented, the Agency had no idea how many inspectors were needed to do the job under CVS or what skills and training they might require.

At the same time, more direct inspection oversight was retired deliberately or because inspectors, overwhelmed by the paper work demands of the new system, could not keep up with their more traditional duties.

Then the perfect storm of the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak occurred.  We all know what happened.

It’s worth re-visiting some of the observations Sheila Weatherill included in her report.

She found that the Compliance Verification System was flawed and in need – and I quote – of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”.

She also found that the CVS was – and I quote again – “implemented without a detailed assessment of the resources available to take on these new (CVS) tasks.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 disaster, it was discovered that Maple Leaf was under no obligation to report to the CFIA test results showing contamination in the plant.

In a system which increasingly relies on companies to police themselves, this shortcoming was addressed.

Now all companies have a mandatory duty to test and report positive results to the CFIA.

Fast forward to today.

XL Foods, one of the biggest meat processors in the country, has just thumbed their noses at this requirement, and the CFIA did not have the resources in place to fully understand what was going on in that plant.

How could this be, you might wonder.  After all, Minister Ritz has assured everyone that there are more inspectors working at that plant than ever.

You will be interested to know that at the XL plant only a small portion of inspectors are fully trained in CVS.

That’s right.

More than four years after CVS was introduced, most inspectors there have not been trained in how to use it.

Why?

There’s a simple answer.

CFIA cannot afford to deliver the training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away being trained.  As well, resources are often diverted to address crises which further derails training.

Because of the pace of production and other factors, those with CVS knowhow at the XL plant did not always share the results of CFIA conducted CVS tasks and tests so other inspectors would have no idea if there was a problem that required heightened vigilance.

This situation is not isolated to XL.

This is yet another example of industry self-policing gone wrong because the CFIA is not adequately resourced to verify compliance.

Returning to the matter before this committee…

Many say that S-11 will make imported food safer because importers will be required to obtain a license from the CFIA.

This could be more illusory than real with the cuts at the Agency this year.

Who will oversee the 10,000 new licencees the CFIA estimates will be covered by this new requirement to ensure they are in compliance with safety requirements?

As a result of downsizing in the federal public service, approximately 170 administrative staff positions at the CFIA have been eliminated.

These are the people who would initiate, evaluate, approve and monitor the performance of these new licencees.  With 100 fewer inspectors on the job – again as a result of downsizing in the public service – you can see that this new licensing regime could potentially be  little more than a paper exercise.

Back to Weatherill for a moment.

She recommended an independent resources audit to – and I quote again – “accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors”.

While CFIA did not conduct such an audit, it did review the situation in the processed meat program. The result was that the Agency almost doubled its complement of processed meat inspectors.

I hazard to guess that if the CFIA did a similar review of its other inspections programs like fish and meat hygiene slaughter, they would find that a similar upward adjustment is required to adequately deliver those programs.

I urge the committee to amend this bill to make such a review mandatory.

I note that an amendment has been put forward by the government, but it does not require an resource audit of CFIA until five years after this bill becomes law.  That’s like crossing your fingers and hoping nothing bad happens for five years.  We already know CFIA has a problem.  Don’t wait for another outbreak before addressing it.

The government’s amendment does not require the results of the audit to be made public.  This shortcoming must be fixed as well.

One final point.

I mentioned that the CFIA is currently revising its inspection program which is likely to involve a reallocation of resources.  I am concerned that executives at the CFIA will see Meat Hygiene Slaughter as resource rich.

In something akin to moving deck chairs on the Titanic, CFIA may think they can rob the program that let us down at XL Foods and reallocate resources to other areas which need to be shored up.

In closing, if Canada’s food safety system is to be a true partnership between government and industry, self-policing on the part of food companies must be reigned in.

To paraphrase the words of Ronald Regan: don’s simply trust; verify.

With a cop in the rearview mirror, people obey the traffic laws.  The same holds true in the food industry.
Presented by Bob Kingston, Oct 2, 2012

 

For immediate release October 16, 2015

Niagara Falls, ON– Two of the four major land crossings from the US into Canada in the Niagara Region are unattended by inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, leaving agricultural producers in the region wide open to pests and diseases that could devastate the industry and threaten Canada’s bio-security.

In 2014, the Rainbow and Whirlpool bridges, which convey millions of private vehicles into Canada from the US, were unattended by CFIA. The two commercial land crossings into Canada at the Peace and the Queenston-Lewiston bridges saw federal inspectors present checking commercial vehicles for pests and other threats only one day out of 38 because they can’t afford to be there more often.

At a news conference this morning with NDP candidates Malcolm Allen (Niagara Centre), the Official Opposition critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Carolynn Ioannoni (Niagara Falls), the unions representing food and plant inspectors and border guards released information obtained from front line inspectors that shows Canadian Food Inspection Agency border presence is woefully inadequate.

Major Ontario Border Crossings

                                                                                    

Frequency of CFIA presence in 2014
Niagara Region (commercial crossings only) 1 in 38 days
Windsor Gateway 1 in 30 days
Pearson Airport 1 in 60 days

At Port Metro Vancouver, the busiest seaport in all of Canada, CFIA inspectors will be on site for general import inspection twice in 2015. And at the busiest land crossing in the west, Pacific Highway, there will be no CFIA inspectors conducting import inspections on site at any time during the year.

“This is happening across the country, not only in Ontario. While we are not watching, serious pests and diseases are likely crossing the border, embedded in wooden packing materials or in the trunk of one of the millions of cars that freely enter into Canada every year without inspection. We have our guard down and there could be a disaster in the making right now because it can take up to a decade for harmful pests and diseases to be noticed. By then, it’s too late to control them,” said Bob Kingston, President of the Agriculture Union – PSAC.

For the CFIA, it’s all about a lack of resources. Since 2012, the federal government has cut the CFIA’s budget for plant protection by 14%.

Fruit growers and the economy in the Niagara region could face devastating consequences on a scale similar to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive alien species that has cost the Canadian economy $500 million in damage since it became established or the Plum Pox Virus which is already hurting stone fruit producers in Canada.

NDP MP Malcolm Allen and candidate in Niagara Centre said: “Willful neglect on the part of the Harper government is placing an industry vital to our region at risk. An NDP government would not allow this. We have a plan to boost inspection and it can’t happen soon enough as far as I am concerned.”

In 2005, responsibility for border control of food products and agricultural pests and diseases was transferred from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to the Canadian Border Services Agency. But the CBSA has other priorities and defence of Canada’s border from threats to Canada’s biosecurity has fallen through the cracks as federal budget cuts have forced the CBSA to shed 1100 positions since the beginning of 2013.

A measure of this decline is the number of insect pest interceptions submitted to CFIA testing labs which have plummeted from almost 600 in 2005 to fewer than 60 in 2014. Testing for agricultural/forestry diseases are almost nil.

“The CBSA simply does not have the resources to protect Canada’s bio-security. Our members are directed to pursue other priorities at the border,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, National President of the Customs and Immigration Union.

On paper, the CFIA and the CBSA co-operate to do some border inspections. But the Harper government’s first priority of a balanced budget and deep tax cuts means this effort is falling short. In spite of promises to conduct 100 joint “border blitzes” – the main import control tool used by the CFIA in conjunction with the Canadian Border Services Agency – they are on track to do only a fraction of this promised surveillance this year.

“Ottawa has a duty to protect Canadian farmers and our bio-security, a duty the Harper government is failing at miserably,” said Carolynn Ioannoni, NDP candidate for Niagara Falls.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592