According to documents obtained by CTV News, Canadian meat inspectors were told to "ignore" contamination on carcasses for domestic consumption but to inspect meat bound for Japan extra carefully.
According to memos sent to inspectors at XL Foods, the plant subject recently to Canada's largest ever beef recall, federal meat inspectors were told to give extra scrutiny for visible and intestinal contamination of the carcasses if the meat was bound for Japan but the contamination could be ignored for meat bound for Canadian consumers.
A memo issued on Sept. 12, 2008 reads:“Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses.When stationed at this position, ensure that non Japan eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD [other carcass defects] and minor ingesta (Ignore them).” The memo was sent again to inspectors in 20010 and 2011.
The memo said that contaminants would be detected later in the process. However, the inspector's union told CTV that the position referred to in the memo is at the end of the inspection line.
In early November, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency again cited XL Foods for failing to sufficiently clean meat-cutting areas. The firm also allowed condensation to form on pipes in the tripe room and did not have a high enough temperature of water in a sanitizer. There was also no sanitizer solution at all in mats used to clean employees' boots. A government bulletin said:“The CFIA instructed plant management to take immediate action to address these concerns. In addition, the CFIA requested the company submit corrective action plans outlining how they will address these issues in the longer term and mitigate future risks.”
The CFIA reports that XL has already corrected immediate problems. A corrective action plan submitted by the company is under review. Now for the rest of the story, which seems not even a subject of debate.
XL Foods reached a deal with JBS in October. The Brazilian-controlled company is the world's largest animal protein processor. JBS will operate the feedlots and processing plants of XL Foods with an option to buy. Bill Rupp, president of JBS's U.S. division said:“We know full well the commitment it takes to manage world-class operations that produce safe and nutritious products. We believe our experienced team will provide an invaluable asset in the management of XL Lakeside and we look forward to to exploring our options to purchase XL assets in the near future.”
The deal gives JBS an exclusive option to buy the Brooks operations, and packing facilities in Calgary, Omaha, Nebraska and Nampa, Idaho for $100 million. JBS said that under no conditions would JBS assume any XL Foods' debt or liabilities.
Commenting on the decision Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said:“While this is a private business decision, Canadian consumers can be assured the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will enforce the same rigorous food safety standards at the Lakeside facility regardless of the management." Officials of Nilsson Bros Inc., who own XL Foods, could not be reached for comment.
The president of the union local that represents most plant employees welcomed the announcement. He said. “I’m not normally in favour of foreign control and ownership, but the Nilsson brothers were in over their heads.They can go back to running their ranches now and leave the operation of this plant to someone who knows what they’re doing.”
However, JBS USA has had its own problems with e coli recalls:
On June 24, 2009 the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that JBS Swift Beef Company, a Greeley, Colo. establishment, recalled approximately 41,280 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. By June 30, the recall had risen to over 421,000 pounds.
As seen on the video, Bill Rupp of JSB USA thinks that the role of inspection falls on the company not on the government. Gerry Ritz along with the union boss are all relieved that the new boss has such a positive view of food safety, in spite of the fact that this same company has itself been charged in the U.S. and has already had to rectify conditions in the plant it is now running.
Notice that it is U.S. cattlemen who oppose the purchase. Conservative politicians in Alberta, the union head, the minister of agriculture, all applaud the sale.
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