For the fourth day in a row, the most extensive beef recall in Canadian history has been extended. Beef from an XL Foods plant in Brooks Alberta has been contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
The recall has been expanded in the province of British Columbia. Twenty retail chains in the province have pulled products from their shelves as a result of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanding the recall from the XL Food plant.
The huge recall has resulted in more than 500 products at thousands of different retail outlets being pulled recently. Consumers are being warned not to consume, sell, or serve the meat. even though cooking the beef well will kill the bacteria. Experts say it is still safer to throw out suspect meat. The products were manufactured at the XL plant in Brooks Alberta on August 24, 27th through to the 29th and September 5. The overall list of suspect products is now so long that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency advises consumers to ask their grocers directly if beef came from the XL plant.
Four Albertans are confirmed ill as a result of the E. coli contamination and five others are still being investigated. So far there have been no reported cases in neighboring B.C.
The XL Foods plant is a large operation. Kevin Boon, who is general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, estimates fully half of the beef produced in the province is shipped to the XL plant in Alberta.
The E. coli was first detected in the Brooks Alberta plant on Sept. 4. It took three weeks before the CFIA suspended the plant's operating licence while safety procedures were updated. Opposition parties in parliament questioned the Conservative government's response to the contamination.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked during question period: “If the Canadian consumer is so much at the forefront of the government’s concern, can the government please explain why it was that the Canadian consumer in Alberta and elsewhere was not informed for a two full weeks by the government of Canada with respect to the problems at XL?”
The leader of the NDP, the official opposition, Thomas Mulcair, pointed out that the same agriculture minister was in charge during a 2008 listeriosis outbreak that killed more than 20 people. He also blamed budget cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for the situation:
“Why are the Conservatives continuing to claim there are not cuts, when their own financial documents say just the opposite? Are their financial documents not accurate?”
“This is the same minister who manhandled the listeriosis outbreak in 2008 and joked about “death by a thousand cold cuts.” It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now. Is this the best they’ve got to offer Canadians who are worried whether the food they’re giving their kids is safe?”
Ritz later apologized for his joke. The Conservative government defended Ritz claiming that he was working sincerely to ensure the safety of meat and that there would be more food inspectors and meat inspectors.The budget of the Food Inspection Agency was recently cut. It is difficult to see how they will be able to have more inspectors without increasing the budget of the agency. However the government claims to have hired more inspectors and increased the budget since they have come to power. While that may be true, it may be spinning the data since in the latest budget there are cuts to the budget of the agency. as pointed out by the NDP leader.
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