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Beef recall now overseas; CFIA to assess XL Foods plant

Hong Kong recalls beef originating from XL Foods while CFIA inspectors begin assessing when and if the plant will be ready to reopen


Ottawa – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors have begun a detailed assessment of XL Foods, the centre of Canada’s largest beef recall, to determine if and when the facility could be ready to open again. The assessment began on Tuesday.

Sources say the recall began when feces caked on the hide of at least one cow contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 made it through the company’s Brooks, Alta.-plant, reports TheGlobeandMail.com. The E. coli wasn’t caught on the kill floor and survived cleaning and de-hiding. Eventually it made its way to the cutting table.

Beef trim tested at another plant came back positive for E. coli on Sept. 4. The recall began on Sept. 16. The plant was eventually shut down on Sept. 27.

During the assessment, the company will not be in operation as its licence will remain suspended.

For now, the company’s operations will be subject to enhanced oversight and specific conditions, and will only resume once the CFIA “is fully satisfied that the plant has implemented effective controls to manage food safety risks at all stages of production.”

Recall spreads to Hong Kong

The recall had been expanded to 30 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. And now it’s expanded overseas in Hong Kong.

On Oct. 5, the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety (CFS) issued a statement saying that after speaking with Canadian authorities it had confirmed that a small portion of beef products had come into the country from XL Foods and had been distributed to some local retailers.

The CFS said it had instructed importers and distributors of raw beef and beef products from XL Foods to stop selling the products and start recalling the affected batches.

Cases of E. coli

So far 11 cases of E. coli have been confirmed and linked to beef from XL Foods: seven cases from Alberta, one from Newfoundland and Labrador and two from Quebec. On Monday, the CFIA confirmed a new case of E. coli on Vancouver Island that is the same strain that was found in meat products from XL Foods.

List of products expanded

On Sunday, the CFIA added 24 new items to its list of recalled products. For a complete list, visit: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/consumer-centre/food-safety-investigations/xl-foods/eng/1347937722467/1347937818275

The CFIA expanded the list to now include steaks, lean ground beef, roasts, sausages and oxtail.

Stores throughout Canada that have been identified by the CFIA as sellers of the recalled products include Superstore, Sobeys, No Frills, Quality Foods, Metro and Walmart.

FSIS updates in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also expanded its Public Health Alert for XL Foods to include all beef and beef products produced on Aug. 24, 27, 28, 29, and Sept. 5, reported the NorthCountryGasette.org on Monday.

Previously, FSIS reported that U.S. firms received approximately 890,000 pounds of boneless beef trim from XL Foods. But after conducting effectiveness checks, FSIS now estimates U.S. firms received approximately 1.1 million pounds of trim and approximately 1.4 million pounds of primal and sub-primal cuts used to produce steaks, roasts, mechanically tenderized steaks and roasts, and ground beef.

XL Foods expresses concern

On Oct. 5, XL Foods issued a statement saying the company and all of its staff  “deeply regret the illness caused by the consumption of beef products.”

The company also went on to detail how it works with external bodies to ensure food safety systems are verified and audited.

HACCP not fully implemented at plant

The CFIA says that XL Foods did have an appropriate plan to control food safety risks.

However, the plan, known as hazard analysis and critical control points plan (HACCP), was not being fully implemented or regularly updated.

Specific observations included:

• Lack of detailed documents outlining required steps when product was positive for E. coli O157:H7 or when there were a high number of positives in a 24-hour period
• Inconsistent trend analysis on positive samples and no process to include test results from client establishments
• Insufficient record keeping related to on-going monitoring and validation of processes, procedures, and equipment maintenance (e.g., 12 of 100 water nozzles clogged in the primary carcass wash area)
• Deficiencies in sampling techniques and procedures, such as inconsistent sampling and no established monitoring program.

CFIA makes corrective action requests

The CFIA also issued a number of other Corrective Action Requests (CARs), which point to general maintenance and sanitation issues that may be found in a high-volume plant, particularly if the plant is older.

These issues would not typically be expected to contribute to E. coli 0157:H7 contamination.

Findings related to maintenance and sanitation included:

• refrigeration units had not been cleaned as frequently as is required in the company’s written sanitation plan
• ice build-up was observed on freezer doors
• water was dripping from piping
• a drain near the rendering room was emitting a foul odour
• there was condensation above exposed containers of product in the sampling and weighing areas
• sanitizer was dripping from overhead structures onto product below.
• the company had no effective monitoring procedures to ensure that equipment design meets requirements
• the evisceration table thermometer was not functioning properly.
• some employees were not wearing beard nets
• employees sorting beef trim touched contaminated product without following appropriate washing and sanitizing procedures.