U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials will visit the Canadian agency responsible for protecting that nation’s food supply next week, a trip that will include a visit to the XL Foods plant in Alberta that’s at the center of a massive beef recall over E. coli contamination.
The Oct. 22 USDA audit of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be the first in three years and could play a role in whether XL Foods will be able to resume meat exports to U.S. retailers if the plant in question receives a new operating license.
A CFIA spokesman says the audit had been planned before the recall began last month and was not linked to the recall, although a USDA sign-off on XL Foods meeting export requirements could affect its future dealings with the estimated 23 U.S. grocery chains across 30 states that it currently serves.
The last USDA audit in 2009 found that CFIA inspectors were not consistent in their ability to verify sanitation and hazard protection in some Canadian meat processing plants.
The final report also found that CFIA inspectors in some cases failed to follow established procedures to monitor sanitation practices. That audit involved visits to 16 sites across Canada.
CFIA is not providing a list of sites that the new audit will include in order to make sure the process covers normal day-to-day operations.
It was a busy weekend for XL Foods, including 2,000 layoffs, 800 rehirings and an expansion of the original recall from Sept. 4.
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