Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Cathy Siegner – Food Safety News

The owners of a British Columbia meat processing plant pleaded guilty Monday in the B.C. Supreme Court to one count of selling E. coli-tainted meat in 2010.

Pitt Meadows Meats, now known as Meadow Valley Meats, had originally been charged with 11 counts of selling meat unfit for human consumption, a violation under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act. According to the CBC, the government is asking the company to pay a $125,000 fine.

In Monday’s action, the company, owned by Ken and Jeff Kooyman, agreed that before lab tests results were in they had sold 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of Halal-labeled meat products. Halal means that the animals were slaughtered and processed according to Islamic law.

Following the guilty plea, company officials issued a statement of apology.

“Food safety is a priority in everything we do and we apologize for not fully following government procedures in 2010,” read the statement released Monday. “We accept the decision of the Court and pledge to do better.”

Pitt Meadows Meats had reportedly received a positive test result for E. coli O157:H7 in September 2010 but did not recall the meat, according to the court’s statement of facts.

However, after a plant employee informed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) about the positive test result, products were recalled and the plant was shut down for a month.

Daniel Land, who was the company’s HACCP coordinator at the time, said he told the plant manager and the owner about the problem, and when nothing was done, he decided to contact CFIA.

“I told CFIA on a Friday, and it was later the next week that they told the Canadian people,” he said in an interview with Food Safety News, adding, “The E. coli-tainted meat was in the marketplace the whole time.”

The plant’s management suggested to CFIA officials that the lab tests had been tampered with and that perhaps Land had done it. Land, who said he was fired from his job after the incident, denied doing so.

Subsequent E. coli tests of the company’s meat products were negative, according to news reports.

Pitt Meadows Meats recalled some of its products (ground beef, ground lamb, beef trim and stewing beef) in November 2010, which included Halal-labeled meat. Most of the company’s products were distributed in the Vancouver, B.C., market.

On Nov. 9, 2010, CFIA issued a warning to the public not to consume fresh or frozen lean ground beef and frozen ground beef patties produced by the company and sold in B.C. between Sept. 3-11, 2010. The agency’s warning stated that “these products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.”

In January 2011, the company decided to opt out of federal government regulation and come under provincial regulation instead.

While no illnesses were reported in connection with the company’s beef and lamb products produced and sold in 2010, Land told Food Safety News that it would be hard to tell whether anyone was ever sickened by consuming them.

“We don’t know where this stuff went. We don’t know who ate it,” he said.

Land subsequently left the food industry and is now working as a hotel manager in Edmonton. He said the experience showed him that “it’s all about money” and that companies such as Pitt Meadows Meats can’t be trusted to tell the public the truth.

“The Canadian people don’t know what’s going on. We’ve got a real problem here in the Canada with the food industry,” he said.

© Food Safety News
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white the Health Minister denies.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts in black and white.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Health Minister Rona Ambrose believes the federal meat inspectors union is “irresponsible” and “inaccurate” when it says meat inspection has been reduced in Northern Alberta meat plants because of an inspector shortage.

But, an internal document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spells out the cuts and the shortage in black and white. Read all about it here.

 
Cathy Siegner – Food Safety News

The owners of a British Columbia meat processing plant pleaded guilty Monday in the B.C. Supreme Court to one count of selling E. coli-tainted meat in 2010.

Pitt Meadows Meats, now known as Meadow Valley Meats, had originally been charged with 11 counts of selling meat unfit for human consumption, a violation under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act. According to the CBC, the government is asking the company to pay a $125,000 fine.

In Monday’s action, the company, owned by Ken and Jeff Kooyman, agreed that before lab tests results were in they had sold 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of Halal-labeled meat products. Halal means that the animals were slaughtered and processed according to Islamic law.

Following the guilty plea, company officials issued a statement of apology.

“Food safety is a priority in everything we do and we apologize for not fully following government procedures in 2010,” read the statement released Monday. “We accept the decision of the Court and pledge to do better.”

Pitt Meadows Meats had reportedly received a positive test result for E. coli O157:H7 in September 2010 but did not recall the meat, according to the court’s statement of facts.

However, after a plant employee informed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) about the positive test result, products were recalled and the plant was shut down for a month.

Daniel Land, who was the company’s HACCP coordinator at the time, said he told the plant manager and the owner about the problem, and when nothing was done, he decided to contact CFIA.

“I told CFIA on a Friday, and it was later the next week that they told the Canadian people,” he said in an interview with Food Safety News, adding, “The E. coli-tainted meat was in the marketplace the whole time.”

The plant’s management suggested to CFIA officials that the lab tests had been tampered with and that perhaps Land had done it. Land, who said he was fired from his job after the incident, denied doing so.

Subsequent E. coli tests of the company’s meat products were negative, according to news reports.

Pitt Meadows Meats recalled some of its products (ground beef, ground lamb, beef trim and stewing beef) in November 2010, which included Halal-labeled meat. Most of the company’s products were distributed in the Vancouver, B.C., market.

On Nov. 9, 2010, CFIA issued a warning to the public not to consume fresh or frozen lean ground beef and frozen ground beef patties produced by the company and sold in B.C. between Sept. 3-11, 2010. The agency’s warning stated that “these products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.”

In January 2011, the company decided to opt out of federal government regulation and come under provincial regulation instead.

While no illnesses were reported in connection with the company’s beef and lamb products produced and sold in 2010, Land told Food Safety News that it would be hard to tell whether anyone was ever sickened by consuming them.

“We don’t know where this stuff went. We don’t know who ate it,” he said.

Land subsequently left the food industry and is now working as a hotel manager in Edmonton. He said the experience showed him that “it’s all about money” and that companies such as Pitt Meadows Meats can’t be trusted to tell the public the truth.

“The Canadian people don’t know what’s going on. We’ve got a real problem here in the Canada with the food industry,” he said.

© Food Safety News

On Thursday, a previously announced recall of Lilydale cooked chicken was expanded to include cooked turkey from the same company, due to listeria contamination.

Robin Levinson King – Toronto Star

A food safety scientist is concerned that a rise in listeria contamination could mean that the government is slipping in its duty to protect Canadian food.

Rick Holley, a food safety expert at the University of Manitoba who advised the government during the deadly Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak in 2008, said that recent spikes in listeria outbreaks in processed meats have made him concerned that the meat industry is slacking in its sanitation practices.

“If we let our guard down, I think we’re just asking for trouble,” he said.

On Thursday, a previously announced recall of Lilydale cooked chicken was expanded to include cooked turkey from the same company, due to listeria contamination.

Listeria recalls on the rise

But this is not an isolated incident, according to Holley.

He said there are five times as many food recalls due to listeria contamination this year than the year before. To come to that conclusion, he analyzed data on food recalls from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and found that in the first three months of 2015, 44 per cent were due to listeria contamination.

Only 9 per cent of recalls during all of 2014 were because of listeria, he said. What concerned him most, he said, was that the listeria outbreak was largely coming from cooked meat and fish products, which means that the bacteria was probably introduced during packaging.

“What that tells me is that maybe the levels of sanitation application on the part of the food industry are slipping,” he said.

Canadian meat under the spotlight

Listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria, has received public attention since an outbreak at a Maple Leaf Foods plant claimed 22 lives in 2008. At the time, the governmentoverhauled the CFIA’s protocols for testing and reporting on the bacteria.

And in 2013, an E. coli outbreak at XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta. led to the largest beef recall in Canadian history after 18 people got sick.

The safety of Canadian meat has become a hot-button international issue. Canada and Mexico have fought U.S. regulations requiring all meat products to be labeled according to country-of-origin. The World Trade Organization ruled that the labels are discriminatory, and the U.S. is appealing the ruling. The trade war has gotten to the point that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that “we are prepared to retaliate at a point in time” if the issue is not resolved.

In the meantime, the government has worked to simplify food inspection guidelines with the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was given Royal Assent in 2012 and came into full force at the start of 2015.

Holley applauds the act, which he said gives the CFIA more authority over industry and takes a outcome-based approach, allowing the agency to devote resources where they are needed most.

But he’s worried that the rise in recalls due to listeria contamination may be a signal that the government’s attention is slipping.

“I’m concerned that when things go quiet in the food-safety arena, government becomes almost complacent,” he said.

Union says domestic meat held to lower standards

On Tuesday, Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, told a news conference in Edmonton that domestic meat was not being held to the same standards as meat sold to other countries.

He said only 12 of 18 meat hygiene inspection positions are filled at processing plants in northern Alberta. The numbers are the same in the Calgary region. In January, he said, the CFIA also instructed staff in the northern part of the province to cut general sanitation inspection work by 50 per cent.

But all meat destined for the United States comes from plants that are inspected every 12 hours that they are open, he added.

The CFIA said in a statement that staff has not been cut in northern Alberta.

“Claims that food safety activities have been cut in Northern Alberta are false,” the statement read. The CFIA said that the union was “undermining Canadians’ confidence in their food safety system.”

Holley said that these rumours worry him, because inspectors do more than just catch bacteria outbreaks — they motivate industry to get in line.

He said he’s worried that cost-cutting, not strategic risk management, are the motivation behind re-allocating resources.

“If they’re hamstrung at all. . . I think that we’ll be looking at some sustained long-term problems,” he said.

Inspection not the only way to measure food safety

The CFIA boasted in its statement that the Conference Board of Canada has ratedCanada’s food safety system number 1 out of 17 OECD countries. This statistic comes from a report co-authored by Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph. Charlebois said that there is no magic number of food inspectors that will guarantee food safety.

“You just can’t cover everything everyday,” he said. “We’re actually more strategic about risk management [than other countries].”

Charlebois said measuring food safety by the number of recalls is tricky, because as we get better at catching contamination, we will issue more recalls. Rather, he said consistency is a sign that a food safety policy is working well. Holly disagreed with his methods, and said it is difficult to compare information across countries.

Ultimately, Charlebois said he’s not worried about Canada’s food safety, and does not think the number of meat inspectors are cause for alarm.

“Food safety systems go through cycles, we’ll go through crises where we’ll have more recalls,” he said. “It is actually quite normal to revisit our regulations all the time.”

© Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.