* Food safety measures were "not enough" -XL Foods
* Recall involves millions of pounds of beef
* Opposition demands ag minister quit, calls for audit
By Rod Nickel
Oct 4 XL Foods, the owner of the Canadian beef
plant that is at the center of one of Canada's largest meat
recalls, said on Thursday it will increase food safety measures
once the government allows the Brooks, Alberta, facility to
It was the company's first statement since the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency (CFIA) suspended the plant's operating license
last week, as more steaks, roasts, ground beef and other
products are recalled that may contain E. coli bacteria.
In all, the recall involves millions of pounds of beef
produced from late August to early September and shipped to
stores in Canada and the United States. Beef from the plant has
been linked to five illnesses and the recall led to one call for
Canada's agriculture minister to resign.
"We believed XL Foods was a leader in the beef-processing
industry with our food safety protocols, but we have now learned
it was not enough," the company said in a release. "We take full
responsibility for our plant operations and the food it
produces, which is consumed by Canadians from coast to coast."
To improve safety, XL said it will use video cameras to
audit plant processes, will expand washing the sides of beef
with high-pressure hot water to eliminate E. coli contamination,
and add staff to each shift to monitor sanitary procedures.
XL Foods said when the plant does reopen, it will begin with
The recall of beef from the plant began Sept. 16, almost two
weeks after the CFIA learned of the contamination and began an
investigation. CFIA has said it did not recall meat earlier
because the products originally flagged had not made it onto
Since then, the recall has been expanded several times, the
latest being on Wednesday, and now involves more than 1,500
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Thursday
that the plant will not open until the head of CFIA assures him
that it poses no health risk, and defended the government's
handling of the crisis.
"We acted as quickly and responsibly as we possibly could,"
The United States stopped importing meat from the plant on
Sept. 13, several days before Canada began to recall meat.
The recall affected food stores across Canada and most U.S.
states and include Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Costco Wholesale
Corp, Safeway and Loblaw Companies Ltd.
CFIA has said that it identified deficiencies at the plant
that separately would not have led to E. coli contamination, but
collectively played a role.
Opposition legislators in Canada on Thursday called for
Agriculture Minister Ritz to resign and pressed for a sweeping
review of food safety systems by Canada's auditor general.
The CFIA has pointed to a five-day delay in XL Foods
complying with the agency's request for information, prior to
the recall. XL did not directly address that concern in its
statement, but said that it has always supplied testing results
to CFIA inspectors daily.
Illnesses in five people in Alberta have been connected to
the beef from XL Foods, according to the province's health
The meat recall is the biggest in Canada since at least
2008, when 22 people died after eating deli meat from a Maple
Leaf Foods plant.
E. coli, a strain of which can cause sickness or even death,
is widely present in meat-processing plants, and regulators
require packers to control the bacteria within certain levels.
E.coli can be killed by thoroughly cooking meat.
Canada is the world's sixth-largest exporter of beef and