Canada allows plant that shipped tainted beef to reopen
By Rod Nickel
(Reuters) - The Canadian plant that produced millions of pounds of tainted beef was set to reopen on Tuesday as food inspection officials tried to restore consumer confidence in the country's food safety system.
XL Foods' Brooks, Alberta, plant has been closed since September 27 after producing beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria that sickened at least 16 people in Canada.
Products including ground beef and steaks were pulled off store shelves across Canada and in most U.S. states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) halted imports last month of products traced to the plant.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it has lifted its suspension of the plant's operating license after XL made a series of improvements. That means the plant, which has the capacity to handle 4,500 animals a day, can gradually resume the slaughter and processing of cattle.
"We are confident that all issues have been fully addressed," said Paul Mayers, associate vice president of programs for CFIA.
Problems at the plant ranged from failing to follow its own food-safety plan to poor analysis of testing results and numerous sanitation concerns, such as workers not wearing beard nets and improper washing.
The CFIA has increased the number of inspectors at the plant and will conduct more testing for E. coli than normal, the agency said.
But Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, said consumers are "not confident at all," about the plant's safety, with some saying they would eat less beef, or avoid beef from Alberta. Continued...