The news of a change in management of the Alberta beef processing plant involved in Canada’s largest beef recall isn’t unexpected, says Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Martin Unrau.
“We’ve known for the last month or so there may have to be some type of management or directional change” with the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks Alberta, he says. On Wednesday, JBS USA, an animal protein processor in the United States and Australia, announced it was taking over management of the plant. It’s a subsidiary of JBS S.A, based in Brazil.
Unrau, who farms near MacGregor, Manitoba, says the change is pos itive in the short term but removing XL Foods does take one bidder out of the North American market. The Canadian Cattlemen’s hasn’t yet studied the change’s long-term implications.
The XL Foods plant ceased processing any new incoming cattle when its operating license was temporarily suspended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Sept. 27. The Agency took the action after the company failed to implement required corrective actions in connection with E. coli 0157:H7.
In addition to the license suspension, there has been an ongoing recall of a wide range of beef products since Sept. 16 and the American border has been closed to products from the plant since Sept. 13. Products from XL Foods have sickened 15 people from four provinces. None of the cases is in Ontario.
As of Oct. 11, the CFIA has allowed the plant to process the 5,100 carcasses remaining in the facility so inspectors could observe the plant’s food safety controls in action. The meat from the processing isn’t allowed to leave the plant.
That processing is now finished and CFIA says in a statement Thursday it’s reviewing its observations and analyzing results from product testing done by both the agency and the company. The agency will prepare a report and recommend next steps before the beginning of next week.
The plant won’t resume normal operations until CFIA confirms in writing it’s safe to do so, the agency’s statement says.
Workers from the plant were laid off on the weekend but some were recalled earlier this week to do the processing test run.
Once the plant is operational again, Canada’s beef producers want the government to review how the beef recall and plant closure was handled.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in the House of Commons Monday a review would be conducted and the report will be public. The review will be handled by the CFIA and the expert advisory committee set up in response to recommendations by Shelia Weatherill in her report into the 2008 listeria crisis.
Unrau says he’s not sure if that committee is the right one to do the review but “I think there has to be a review of how this was handled, every aspect of it actually.”
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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