* Plant remains closed
* 16 people in Canada sickened by E. coli bacteria
Oct 19 (Reuters) - Test samples at the closed XL Foods meat plant that produced tainted beef were negative for E. coli bacteria, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on Friday, moving closer to a decision on whether to reopen the plant.
Inspection officials tested meat from 5,000 carcasses that were in the Brooks, Alberta plant prior to its shutdown.
CFIA plans to finalize its recommendations over the weekend on the plant's reopening after further review of the plant's bacterial controls.
"We must remain focused on the need to protect consumers," said Paul Mayers, associate vice president of programs for CFIA.
The plant has been closed since Sept. 27 after producing beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria that sickened at least 16 people in Canada.
Millions of pounds of beef products have been recalled across Canada and in most U.S. states.
JBS USA, a unit of Brazilian meat giant JBS SA , took over management of the plant this week and holds an option to buy the Canadian and U.S. operations of XL Foods for $50 million in cash and $50 million in JBS SA shares.