Nov. 28, 2012
OTTAWA -- Federal beef inspectors at the XL
Foods plant in southern Alberta whose E. coli crisis sparked the country�s
largest meat recall were ordered to turn a blind eye to contamination on
carcasses being processed for sale to Canadians, CTV News has learned, a
directive that was imposed by the inspectors� supervisors lasting four
The 2008 memo written by a Canadian
Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) meat hygiene supervisor at the Brooks, Alta.,
plant, obtained by CTV, instructed CFIA inspectors stationed at one of the
plant�s final inspection stops to give extra scrutiny to carcasses shipped
to Japan, but to ignore visible fecal and intestinal contamination on meat
�Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan
eligible carcasses,� the memo said of the inspection station.
Federal beef inspectors at the XL Foods plant in southern Alberta whose
E. coli crisis sparked the country�s largest meat recall were ordered to
turn a blind eye to contamination on carcasses being processed for sale to
Canadians, CTV News has learned.
Doug O'Halloran, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local
401, speaks with CTV News, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA's executive director of western operations,
speaks with CTV News, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
Agriculture Union president Bob Kingston, speaks with CTV News,
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
�Ensure that non-Japan-eligible carcasses
are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD (other carcass defects)
and minor ingesta,� the note continued. �Ignore them.�
representing workers at the Brooks plant says this practice is �ridiculous.�
�There�s one standard for beef being shipped to Japan and there�s
another standard for beef being shipped elsewhere,� said Doug O�Halloran,
president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 401. �It is incredible
that you could allow material to leave the plant that could have
contamination on it just because it�s not going to Japan.
�No disrespect to Japan, but what about the rest of the human beings
in the world? It�s like we�re second class citizens,� he said.
memo -- dated Sept. 12, 2008 -- was sent to CFIA inspection staff at the
Brooks, Alta., plant and was re-issued to them again in 2010 and 2011.
The CFIA memo added that the contaminants can be detected later on in
the meat-processing process, something with which the union representing
CFIA inspectors disagree.
�What (the CFIA memo) is saying is that for
non-Japan-destined carcasses, don�t worry about seeing minor defects and
that the problem will be picked up later on,� Agriculture Union president
Bob Kingston. �But the problem with that is it�s at the end of the
inspection line. If it�s not dealt with there, nobody is going to.�
CFIA management says meat products in Canada are safe to consume and insists
feces and intestine splatter were being caught.
�If by chance it
passes through that point, there are other steps beyond that which we call
intervention which will take care of these particular things like remnants
of organs and feces,� said Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA�s executive director
of western operations.
�There is a de-contamination shower and then further to that, there
are anti-microbial sprays� that carcasses go through, Kochhar said.
the showers, front-line inspectors say, only remove non-visible bacteria and
will not remove feces and intestine splatter.
contaminated with fecal and intestinal matter can also carry E. coli.
A senior CFIA official -- who requested anonymity -- told CTV News the
high-speed lines should have been stopped immediately. �Any visible
contamination is required to be trimmed off,� the official said. �It is not
allowed to be washed off.�
NDP�s agriculture critic says the CFIA
memo puts Canadians� lives in danger.
�When you ignore the standard and
allow that type of material to contaminate beef and go past the final
inspection station, you put Canadians� health at risk,� Malcolm Allen said.
�To find out it was indeed a directive -- and not just a question of
someone�s willfulness or was lazy and didn�t bother to do it -- but they
were directed to ignore it, that is an indictment of the system and the
leadership of CIFA.�
O�Halloran with the plant�s union agrees:
�There�s no reason for fecal matter to be on the beef once it leaves the
kill floor. It should be completely non-contaminated. . . . For CFIA to say
that we�ll catch it down the line, it�s ridiculous.
about actions here that are criminal in nature because they could affect
people who eat product to die,� he said. �This was criminal on what they
were allowed to happen.�
New memo issued
CFIA issued a new
memo two weeks ago no longer telling their inspectors who spot contaminants
on the production station to �ignore it.�
�Inform QA and/or
Production for ingesta identified,� read the new instructions, dated Nov.
16. �If no one is available production would have to be halted to have the
Agency management says the revised memo was �more
prescriptive� and was written to ensure �there is no confusion.�
�That was something that was brought to our attention that there might be a
confusion,� Kochhar said of the previous note. �We had to re-write it
because we had to provide more clarity.�
XL Foods was involved in a
massive meat recall prompted by an E. coli scare at its Brooks, Alta.,
plant. A strain of the bacteria linked to XL has made 18 people in four
provinces sick, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
States, Taiwan and Hong Kong imposed restrictions on beef imports from the
XL Foods plant immediately following the E. coli scare.
JBS USA, a subsidiary of a Brazilian-based company that calls itself the
largest animal protein processor in the world, took over management of the