2012-10-19- Statement on E. coli O157:H7 Investigation
As announced earlier this week, the cutting and deboning of carcasses has been completed at XL Foods Inc. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also indicated that it was waiting for test results to come back on meat from these carcasses. The CFIA 's results and those of the company are negative for E. coli. This information is one piece of the Agency's assessment. The CFIA is now reviewing its observations of deboning and cutting activities, specific E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation in the plant.
These findings, including a plan for next steps, will be finalized over the weekend. The CFIA knows that everyone is eager to have this work completed, and the Agency is certainly moving ahead as quickly as possible but must remain focused on the need to protect consumers.
This week, the CFIA learned that there will be a change in management at Establishment 38. This development will not affect the CFIA's assessment. The CFIA’s top priority is consumer safety so this facility’s operating license will not be returned until the CFIA is completely satisfied that this plant can produce safe food.
Yesterday, the union representing workers at the plant cast doubt again on the competencies of Canadian food inspectors in the media. I would like to assure all Canadians that Canada’s food inspectors are professional and do their job diligently.
The CFIA's priority is food safety, and the CFIA has an important partnership to maintain with plant staff. The CFIA is committed to maintaining a good, open dialogue with XL Foods Inc. employees. The CFIA remains open to working with any staff to improve food safety. This is why the Agency has reached out to the union several times, since their first comments made a week ago, to get any evidence or facts they may have. To date, the CFIA has not received any response.
The CFIA would also like to further clarify the foreign audit process. As trading partners, Canada and the United States regularly audit each other’s food safety systems. Canada regularly audits US facilities, and the CFIA's findings are completely consistent with the types of observations US auditors make when they assess Canadian plants. The bottom line is that any food safety issues identified either in the course of daily inspection or through these audits are addressed immediately. This was the case concerning audits from the last decade and it remains the case today.
The XL Foods Inc. plant has been audited by foreign countries ten times in the past three years. It passed all successfully, demonstrating foreign countries’ confidence in the facility and the CFIA’s oversight capacity. It is only in recent weeks that the plant’s ability to export was suspended.
The CFIA would like to remind everyone that the plant will not be allowed to reopen unless the Agency is confident that food safety controls are being implemented effectively and consistently. When the plant is allowed to reopen, it will resume normal operations under enhanced CFIA oversight, which will continue for as long as the CFIA deems necessary.
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