The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a health alert over some beef steaks sold at the Costco store in northeast Edmonton after four people got sick from eating the meat.
Alberta Health Services linked the strip loin grilling steaks with four cases of E. coli illness announced last week.
That's at least
eight people four people who have gotten sick from eating contaminated beef. (Note: my mistake. The two paragraphs refer to the same four people - p) Authorities are being very careful to state that they can't confirm XL Foods is responsible but that's where the beef originated. Under the circumstances it would be awfully coincidental if the contamination happened after the product left their shop, wouldn't it?
The Edmonton Journal is reporting that Alberta's Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson is "concerned" that the Americans are blocking all XL Foods product from entering their country but he's hoping for a quick resolution.
To me, the detail in the Journal piece on the CFIA's findings after inspecting XL Foods sounds awfully reminiscent of Maple Leaf Foods four years ago.
...the CFIA noted "several deficiencies" uncovered during an investigation into the slaughterhouse. Although no single reason for the E. coli contamination could be found, the CFIA statement said a combination of practices could have "played a role" in the spread of the bacteria, which is common in such facilities.
"By themselves, each of these findings would not typically signal an immediate concern during the course of normal inspection activities," the government statement said.
Meat producers analyze trends in bacteria levels, modifying control measures if higher than normal rates are detected, but that step "was not always conducted consistently" at the XL Foods facility, the government said. Inspectors also found discrepancies between documented control measures and those implemented at the plant, showing a lack of regular review for the facility control plan.
Before the Conservatives modified procedures and reduced their numbers, federal inspectors would have been more involved in the day to day operations, might have spotted the trends and discrepancies much sooner and been much quicker to stop suspect product from going out the door. But now more is left to the company itself and federal inspectors only seem to get involved after a problem has surfaced.
It's perfectly normal for the company and its employees to believe their top priority is to get product out the door. But the top priority for inspectors should be to prevent the possibility that contaminated product will get into the food supply. Those two priorities can conflict and that's when people get sick. Inspectors need to be independent of the company and armed with the authority to do what needs to be done. And they need to spend enough time on the shop floor to know what's going on.
Would someone please explain that to Gerry Ritz?