Canada inspectors cite delays getting tainted meat data

Wed Oct 3, 2012 7:50pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

(Reuters) - Canadian food inspectors could not immediately get key information from packer XL Foods after detecting E. coli bacteria in its beef, adding to a nearly two-week delay in launching one of the country's largest-ever meat recalls.

Authorities learned about the presence of E. coli in beef produced at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta, from U.S. authorities on September 4, triggering a Canadian investigation.

Two days later, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) asked XL Foods for information on product testing and distribution, but the request was not fulfilled until September 11.

"There was a delay in getting it," George Da Pont, president of the CFIA, said in a press conference at a CFIA laboratory in Calgary, Alberta. "We have limited authority to compel immediate documentation."

Officials from XL Foods could not immediately be reached for comment.

Five illnesses have been linked to the tainted beef.

One of the provisions in draft legislation to make foods safer for Canadians would give the CFIA more authority, Da Pont said.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who oversees the CFIA, said the agency had done "a terrific job" dealing with the tainted beef.   Continued...

Clayton Colliou, a butcher at Bon Ton Meat Market, works with choice cuts of Alberta beef in Calgary, Alberta, October 3, 2012. Bon Ton stated it was not effected by the recent E.Coli outbreak as they get their meat from select smaller producers. E. coli, a strain of which can cause sickness or even death, is widely present in meat-processing plants, and regulators require packers to control the bacteria within certain levels. E.coli can be killed by thoroughly cooking meat. REUTERS/Todd Korol