Friday, September 28, 2012

USDA Issues Alert for Meat Products from Canadian Firm XL Foods

USDA is expanding the health alert for beef products produced by a Canadian firm, XL foods. This product may have made its way to as many as 30 states and to a number of different retailers including Walmart and Safeway.

 The issue began as product samples tested at the US border were found to be E. coli O157:H7 positive. Increased testing by the US resulted in more positives and this resulted in a CFIA investigation followed by the plant recalling over 250 products.

 Also this week, steaks produced at the XL plant have been linked to 4 cases of E. coli infection in Canada. The XL steak product was purchased from Costco in Edmonton. It is interesting to note that the products were tenderized in-store by Costco. Tenderization, of course, will serve to drive any E. coli located on the surface of the steak down into the interior of the steak. Unfortunately, many people cook tenderized steaks as they would regular steaks, towards the rarer side. When cooked this way, there may be insufficient heat to destroy E. coli that had been pushed into the interior portion of the meat during tenderization. Tenderized steaks should be cooked to the same temperature as hamburger (consumer 160F, foodservice 155F).

While the CFIA has shut down the XL plant, there is criticism of the reaction time from when the first positive was seen until the time the recall took place – about 12 days. Another issue was the inaction of the plant during what is considered a high event period – a high event period is a time when higher levels of E. coli are found.

USDA News Release
FSIS Expands Public Health Alert for Imported Canadian Beef from XL Foods

WASHINGTON, September 28, 2012 – The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is expanding the Public Health Alert for XL Foods (Canadian Establishment 038) to include all beef and beef products produced on August 24, 27, 28, 29 and September 5. FSIS was notified this evening that XL Foods has expanded their recall to include all beef and beef products produced on the above dates.

Information for Consumers

Because FSIS has been informed that all beef and beef products produced on the above dates are being recalled by XL Foods, the Agency is using this public health alert to make the public aware that these products are considered adulterated and should be returned to the place of purchase or destroyed. Products subject to the recall include, but are not limited to, steaks, roasts, mechanically tenderized steaks and roasts, and ground beef.

Additional information for consumers and an updated
retail distribution list are posted on FSIS' website at
Information for Industry

FSIS has reason to believe, based on information provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), that beef from cattle slaughtered during the period associated with the recall was produced under insanitary conditions that resulted in a high event period (a period when the trim from carcasses exhibited an unusually high frequency of positive findings for the possible presence of E. coli O157:H7). Therefore, all products produced on the affected dates are considered adulterated and must be either destroyed or verified as having received a full lethality treatment.

CFIA is overseeing the effectiveness of the recall in Canada and FSIS is overseeing the effectiveness in the United States. FSIS continues to verify that all receivers of affected beef from the Canadian-initiated recall have been notified and have removed product from commerce, and will take appropriate action if prohibited activity is found. FSIS will update the retail consignee list as FSIS verifies information received during the recall effectiveness verification process.

FSIS testing of raw boneless beef trim product from Canadian Establishment 038, XL Foods, Inc., confirmed positive for E. coli O157:H7 on September 3, 2012. After alerting the CFIA of the positive results, the agencies launched an investigation including additional testing, and CFIA announced a
recall by XL Foods, Inc. of a variety of ground beef products on Sept. 16. FSIS also issued a Public Health Alert (PHA) on September 20, 2012, provided updated information on September 21 and September 26, 2012. Today, the CFIA notified FSIS that XL Foods is recalling all product produced on August 24, 27, 28, 29 and September 5. Today's Public Health Alert applies to all beef and beef products produced by Canadian Establishment 038, XL Foods, Inc. on these dates.


FSIS issues Public Health Alerts to make the public aware of a public health hazard. FSIS is not announcing a recall at this time because the goal of such an action is to have the establishment most directly associated with producing adulterated product remove the product from commerce. In this case, the establishment was XL Foods, Inc., a Canadian firm, and that recall has been initiated in Canada.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

 Canada temporarily shuts plant linked to tainted beef

Sept 28 (Reuters) - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily shut a meatpacking plant linked to contaminated beef products that have sickened several people and been distributed across Canada and the United States.

The operators of privately held XL Foods' plant in Brooks, Alberta have not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria, the CFIA said on Friday.

"All products currently at this plant are under CFIA detention and control," the agency said in a statement. "XL Foods Inc will not resume operations until they have demonstrated that they have fully implemented CFIA's required corrective actions."

Several people have been sickened after eating steaks believed to have been contaminated with E. coli, which were bought at a Costco Wholesale Corp store in Edmonton, Alberta. The supplier of the tainted meat has not been identified.

XL Foods said on Wednesday there was no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness. The company's officials could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service expanded a public health alert about potentially tainted beef from the plant, that may have made its way to U.S. grocery stores in more than 30 states, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Safeway. XL Foods is recalling the products, which include steaks, roasts and ground beef.

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant on Sept. 13.


 Beginning early in September, XL Foods had voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli. CFIA said it would recall more products over the next few days as it traces their movement.

 E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, and is often present at slaughter plants. Processors are required to monitor for higher-than-normal detection rates and to take additional measures as necessary.

The CFIA's review of the plant's food safety controls found XL Foods could not prove that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli, the agency said.

XL Foods took some steps this month to increase food safety, but the CFIA concluded they were not enough.

XL is one of the two biggest beef processors in Canada, with the other giant being U.S. agribusiness Cargill Ltd.

The shutdown of XL's Brooks plant will weaken Western Canadian cattle prices, and limit farmers' options for cattle sales, said Alberta rancher Travis Toews.

"If this situation persists for any length of time, cattle will get backed up," he said, adding it was fortunate there weren't large numbers of cattle headed for slaughter at this time of year.

 "Our hope is that whatever issue requires correction will get corrected quickly and they'll be back in business."

 XL is owned by Canadian company Nilsson Brothers Inc, which also owns auction marts, ranches and other farm businesses in Alberta.

Canada is the sixth-largest beef and veal exporter in the world.

 CFIA gives XL foods meat E. coli scare update
Canadian Food Inspection Agency testing products at plant in Brooks, Alta.

CBC News Posted: Sep 27, 2012 11:09 PM MT Last Updated: Sep 28, 2012 8:59 AM MT

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has suspended the operating licence of XL Foods at the Alberta-based plant in Brooks that has been linked to several recalls of more than 250 beef products for fear of E. coli contamination.

Products at the plant are being held by the CFIA to be tested for the bacteria, the agency announced late Thursday night.

The plant will not be able to resume operations until corrective measures imposed by the CFIA have been undertaken.

"The company took initial steps to ensure the safety of food being produced and at the time committed to additional steps to deal with all issues and prevent recurrence," the agency said in a release.

"However, based on information provided by XL Foods Inc. on Sept. 26, as well as through CFIA inspector oversight, the CFIA has determined that these deficiencies have not been completely corrected. To date, the company has not adequately implemented agreed upon corrective actions and has not presented acceptable plans to address longer-term issues."

XL Foods also expanded its voluntary recall to all raw meat produced on Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29 and Sept. 5, the CFIA said in a release. The agency said it will alert consumers as additional products are identified.

"This will lead to a series of recall announcements over the next few days as implicated products are identified and traced," the CFIA said in a release.

Edmonton E. coli cases linked to steaks

 Alberta Health Service officials announced earlier this week that four people in Edmonton got sick from E. coli after
eating Kirkland brand striploin steaks purchased at a Costco outlet in Edmonton.

The CFIA said the meat the steaks were made from came from the XL Foods plant, but health officials aren't sure whether the E. coli was on the product or if it came from a metal meat tenderizing machine used at the Costco store.

The store has said it would no longer use the tenderizing machine.

More than 250 meat products have already been pulled from Canadian stores after the company initiated a voluntary recall.

On Thursday, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, which banned imports of beef from the company, extended its public health alert about beef from the company's Lakeside plant to stores in 30 states, including retail giant Wal-Mart.

The Brooks, Alta., plant employs
more than 2,200 unionized workers.

 Brooks Mayor Martin Shields hopes the plant is up and running again soon, as it has a large payroll in the town.

"It's obviously a situation where something needs to be cleaned up or done to get the licence reinstated, and I'm sure that XL beef will — as a company that's worked hard to provide a good product — will do that."

Health officials have reported nine E. coli cases in Alberta over the past week, but investigators are still trying to determine the source in five of them.

Recall questions in Parliament
The meat recall came up in the House of Commons during question period Thursday.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae focused on the gap between the American border services detection on Sept. 4 and the recall notice on Sept. 16.

 "Why did it take 12 days before a recall notice was put out by the Canadian government?" Rae asked.

NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said Canadians are worried and blamed recent cuts to the CFIA for the late recall, saying "the lack of details is disturbing."

"I doubt whether the minister knows Sept. 4 from Sept. 16, but what we do know is that American inspectors caught that contaminated meat, not Canadian inspectors, and that is a failure on the government's part," he said.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz denied that the cuts were to blame.

 Last night on a panel program [Allen] said there is absolutely no CFIA presence in that facility," said Ritz. "He is absolutely wrong. There are 46 inspection staff in that facility, 20 per cent more than there were three years ago. That is some cut."
Heritage Minister James Moore also shot back, saying it was the Liberals who had neglected Canada's food inspection regime over ten years.

"It is very important that the Opposition members do understand and stop misleading Canadians with regard to both food safety and the government's commitment to food safety," said Moore. 

"We have increased our investment and ensured that we have more inspectors. In fact, 700 more inspectors are on the job now than when we formed government." 

XL Foods timeline

Sept. 3: Random testing at the U.S. border finds E. coli in a shipment from Alberta's XL Foods. That shipment is placed on “hold,” as is standard policy, and triggers testing of the next 15 shipments from the company. Of those, two test positive. safety of food being produced and at the time committed to additional steps to deal with all issues and prevent recurrence," the agency said in a release.
Sept. 4: U.S. officials inform CFIA, which has also discovered E. coli through routine testing.
Sept. 12: CFIA is informed of two more positive E. coli tests in meat crossing the U.S. border.
Sept. 13: CFIA investigation team goes to the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta.
Sept. 16: CFIA issues first recall. In the following nine days, the recall is expanded six times as more information becomes available.
Sept. 25: U.S. bans import of beef from XL Foods.
Sept. 27: CFIA temporarily suspends XL Foods licence.

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