UPDATED: Twitter battle breaks out over landfill dumping of beef from XL Foods

By Bryan Weismiller, Calgary Herald October 21, 2012 9:01 PM

BROOKS — A steady stream of dump trucks rolled into a Brooks landfill through the weekend, teeming with recalled beef from the XL Foods Inc. plant.

The first load arrived at about 8 a.m. Saturday for disposal at the Newell Regional Solid Waste Management Authority. By late Sunday, approximately 600 tonnes of frozen product had been dropped off, said landfill manager Ray Juska.

“We don’t normally work Sunday and we don’t normally work until 10 o’clock on Saturday night either,” Juska said. “Hopefully they’ll run out of stuff to send us soon.”

The meat is being compacted in an industrial-grade, clay-lined cell.

Juska said much of the dumped contents are offal — internal organs and discarded byproducts from slaughter — although some hamburger has also been delivered.

“We’re all waiting for the striploins to show up,” he said.

Federal food inspectors have seized more than 5.5 million kilograms of beef from the beleaguered plant at the heart of a massive E. coli recall.

On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the meat packer may be allowed to send some of the recalled beef to market if it is cooked at a high enough temperature to kill off any possible bacteria.

But later that day, the agency said all meat involved in the recall had been returned to XL Foods and will be destroyed. CFIA officials have been overseeing and monitoring the disposal of the meat at the landfill.

The CFIA announced Friday it would be drafting recommendations for the shuttered plant over the weekend.

Brooks Mayor Martin Shields expects the town’s largest employer will reopen this week. Shields said he was told by the plant’s manager that groups of workers would be recalled on Monday for an orientation with the new owners, Brazil-based JBS USA.

A CFIA spokeswoman said it’s too early to speculate on when the meat packing facility will resume normal operations.

But Shields expects the inspection agency will give the green light to Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz by Tuesday.

“Sounds pretty clear to me that it’s going to go ahead,” he said in an interview.

However, the mayor is quick to point out that everything is not rosy in cattle country. He said more than $200,000 in wages is lost each day while 2,000 plant workers sit at home.

The XL Foods plant — closed since Sept. 27 — is the town’s economic engine, employing roughly one in every six residents.

“We’re dealing with an economic situation,” Shields said. “People have to understand there are still a lot of people at the food bank.” Speaking to reporters in Edmonton Saturday, Premier Alison Redford said it is “the end of the third week of a very difficult situation.”

“Every time I talk about it, the first thing I say is the quality of the product we are producing in Alberta is of a high quality and high standard,” Redford said. “It’s an excellent product and we want to encourage people to keep consuming it.”

Some 16 people across the country have become sick from bacteria in products sourced from the Brooks meat-packing plant.

A battle broke out on Twitter on Sunday when Opposition Leader Danielle Smith appeared to endorse feeding the recalled meat to the hungry rather than disposing of it. In a response to a Tweet from an individual who questioned, “Is there no way to cook it so it’s safe and feed the hungry?”, Smith responded, “I agree. We all know thorough cooking kills E. coli. What a waste.”

NDP Leader Brian Mason instantly responded, tweeting, “I’m appalled that a public official would suggest feeding tainted meat to ABans living in poverty.”

Smith went on to tweet that she would hate to see good food destroyed if there was a way to salvage it, and that if the recalled beef could be sold, she would be among the first to buy it.

With files from Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald, and The Canadian Press

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Original source article: UPDATED: Twitter battle breaks out over landfill dumping of beef from XL Foods