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XL Foods fails to fully meet food standards … again

A Canada Food Inspection Agency employee, left, watches as beef from the XL Foods cattle processing plant is dumped at a landfill site near Brooks, Alta., Oct. 22, 2012.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A beef processing plant in Alberta that was temporarily closed after its products were recalled because of E. coli contamination has been cautioned for again failing to fully meet food safety standards.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigators say that "overall food safety controls were being effectively managed," at the XL Foods Inc. plant during its first week back in business.

But government inspectors who were monitoring all aspects of the operation, from the unloading of animals to the packing of finished products, found enough concerns to issue new corrective action requests. The requests are formal notices that require the company to respond immediately to the problems and to come up with long-term plans to avoid similar issues in the future.

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The CFIA cited XL Foods for: failing to adequately clean meat-cutting areas; allowing condensation to form on pipes in the tripe room; failing to maintain a high temperature in water in a sanitizer and for not having a sanitizing chemical solution in the mats used for cleaning employees' boots.

"The CFIA instructed plant management to take immediate action to address these concerns," states a government bulletin. "In addition, the CFIA requested the company submit corrective action plans outlining how they will address these issues in the longer term and mitigate future risks."

The CFIA stated that the company had corrected the immediate problems and had submitted a corrective action plan, which is now under review.

XL Foods has been under close scrutiny by the CFIA since early September, when E. coli was detected in raw beef trimmings. On the same day, the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Services found E. coli in a U.S. sample.

After an intensive investigation and a recall of products across Canada and the U.S., the plant in Brooks, 180-kilometres southeast of Calgary, was shut down while the company struggled to comply with food safety issues.

In the meantime, health officials linked 17 cases of E. coli to XL Foods products.

The plant managers, JBS-USA, had to respond to 41 CFIA corrective action requests before being allowed to restart the plant last week.

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The CFIA said food products are being withheld from the market while inspectors await the latest test results from product samples.

"Trim and ground beef products will be held by XL Foods Inc. until all related CFIA and XL Foods Inc. test results are reviewed and found acceptable," stated the government bulletin.

The CFIA also said the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service had visited the plant on Friday, and would be issuing audit findings at a later date.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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