Canada beef plant samples test negative for E. coli

Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:00pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Test samples from the XL Foods meat plant in Alberta have come back negative for E. coli bacteria, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on Friday, moving closer to a decision on whether to reopen the plant, which the agency closed because some of the plant's beef products were contaminated.

Inspection officials tested meat from 5,000 carcasses that were in the Brooks, Alberta, plant before CFIA shut it down.

CFIA plans to finalize its recommendations on the plant's reopening over the weekend after further review of its bacterial controls.

"We must remain focused on the need to protect consumers," said Paul Mayers, associate vice president of programs for CFIA.

The plant has been closed since September 27 after producing beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria that sickened at least 16 people in Canada.

E. coli bacteria can cause illness, or even death, and symptoms include severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Cooking meat to the correct internal temperature kills the bacteria.

Millions of pounds of beef products have been recalled across Canada and in most U.S. states.

The recalled beef will be thrown out, rendered or cooked and used in frozen foods or soups, said Harpreet Kochhar, executive director of Western Canadian operations for CFIA.

The reprocessed product will not re-enter the food supply unless it is re-tested and found safe, he said.   Continued...

Hereford Angus Cross cattle are pictured on the Bell L ranch near Airdrie, Alberta, September 30, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol