Canada XL Foods plant to partly open after beef recall

Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:34pm EDT
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By Louise Egan and Rod Nickel

OTTAWA/WINNIPEG, MANITOBA (Reuters) - Canada's food inspection agency will allow the XL Foods plant in Alberta, which produced the tainted beef that triggered one of the biggest meat recalls in Canadian history, to resume limited meat processing only on Thursday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said no meat will be allowed to leave the plant for now and that it will be adding extra inspectors to closely monitor the company's plan to improve food safety at the plant, which had slaughtered 40 percent of all Canadian cattle.

The CFIA suspended the Brooks, Alberta, plant's operating license on September 27, due to an expanded recall of millions of pounds of beef suspected of being contaminated with E. coli bacteria. At least 12 people in Canada are recovering from eating meat contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The resumption of limited processing only marks the next stage in a review of XL's improvements to the plant, said Harpreet Kochhar, executive director of Western operations at CFIA.

"While the plan appears comprehensive and appropriate on paper we need to confirm its full implementation and effectiveness in action," Kochhar said.

For now, the XL plant will only process about 5,000 carcasses that were in the plant prior to its closure and that have tested negative for E. coli.

CFIA has added temporary two inspectors to boost oversight at the plant and gave no timeline for the plant resuming operations.

"I think it's a good move that they're actually looking to review procedures before they're opening everything up," said Keith Warriner, a professor of food science at the University of Guelph, Ontario.   Continued...

Cattle graze in a field near the XL Foods plant that sits idle in Brooks, Alberta, October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol