Millions of kilograms of XL beef has tested safe: Now what to do with it?

By Tamara Gignac, Calgary Herald October 19, 2012

While all beef from the XL Foods Inc. recall will be destroyed, the fate of another huge quantity of the company’s beef — which shows no sign of a dangerous bacteria — remains unknown.

More than 5.5-million kilograms of beef from the Brooks plant was detained across the country during the crisis as a precautionary measure. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the meat, which includes steaks and roasts, has tested negative for the deadly E. coli bacteria.

The agency has given XL Foods three options for that meat.

“It could go to rendering, it could go to the landfill, it could go to cooking,” said Dr. Harpreet Kochlar, the CFIA’s executive director of western operations.

“We don’t have a plan presented by the company, so we can’t speculate.”

Regulations require the meat to undergo additional tests before it can be sent back to market.

An undisclosed quantity of recalled beef products returned to stores by consumers is not eligible for “reconditioning,” noted Paul Mayers, the CFIA’s associate vice-president of programs.

“Where product has remained in the control chain, options can be considered around the return of that product to a marketable state,” he said.

“However, once product goes outside the chain, then product integrity can’t be assured.”

The detained meat from more than 5,000 carcasses at XL Foods tested negative for the E. coli bacteria, safety officials said Friday.

It’s still unknown when the Brooks facility will be allowed to reopen. The plant has been shuttered since Sept. 27, when the discovery of tainted beef prompted the federal government to revoke its operating license.

The CFIA plans to finalize its recommendations over the weekend after reviewing the plant’s E. coli control strategy, meat hygiene and overall sanitation practices.

“When the plant is allowed to reopen, it will resume operations under enhanced oversight which will continue as long as the CFIA deems necessary,” said Mayers.

Some 16 people across the country have become sick from the bacteria — including a new case announced Friday involving an infected patient in Quebec.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the most recent illness is directly linked to the same strain of E. coli 0157 observed during the CFIA investigation.

With its losses mounting, beleaguered XL Foods announced plans this week to sell its slaughterhouse in Brooks and other assets to multinational meat giant JBS USA.

The Brazilian-based company has an option to buy XL’s beef packing plants in Calgary, Nebraska and Idaho, as well as a feedlot in southeastern Alberta and adjacent farmland.

Acquired in 2009, XL Foods’ packing house in Brooks was processing 40 per cent of Canada’s beef before its licence was suspended.

The CFIA’s investigation has prompted criticism from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents employees at the plant.

Union officials have cast doubt on the ability of federal inspectors to properly do their jobs — an assertion the CFIA says is without merit.

“We remain open to working with staff to improve food safety. That is why we have reached out to the union several times … to get evidence of facts they might have. To date we have not received a response,” Mayers said.

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Original source article: Millions of kilograms of XL beef has tested safe: Now what to do with it?