by Doug Powell
Food safety ain’t simple, it’s hard.
So over a month after reports of illness and E. coli O157 positive sample started rolling in, weeks of outrage, political incompetence, condescending statements and corporate silence, and barely a mention of the sick people, the owners of the XL plant in Alberta have decided food safety is hard, and agreed to be managed by Brazilian-owned JBS USA.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 president Doug O’Halloran told the Globe and Mail, “I think that, initially, it’s a good thing. I’ve been saying from the beginning that they either need new management or new ownership, because the Nilsson brothers were obviously out of their league in running this company.”
So if they were out of their league, why didn’t those 40 inspectors and six veterinarians notice over the years?
Apparently the Americans noticed.
The Ottawa Citizen reports inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent a series of audit reports to the CFIA between 2003 and 2008 detailing deficiencies they had found at Canadian processing plants, including XL Foods facilities.
These audit reports list findings at XL Foods plants that included sloppy record-keeping, equipment held together by duct tape and, in one case, a gruesome scene of animal blood dripping into edible meat products.
One audit in 2003 found non-compliance with food safety procedures serious enough that the company was temporarily delisted as an approved exporter to the U.S.
XL Foods did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Richard Arsenault, the agency’s director of the CFIA’s meat programs division, cautioned against reading too much into findings in the U.S. audits, stating,
“The writing of these reports often lends itself to conclusions that don’t reflect the overall system. Making sure everything is impeccably clean all the time is not the easiest thing to do. Plants are always going to have challenges.”
© 2012 US Food Safety Corporation. No copyright claim is made for portions of this blog and linked items that are works of the United States Government, state governments or third parties