XL Foods hid poor quality control: lawsuit

By Ryan Cormier and Brent Wittmeier, Edmonton Journal October 3, 2012

EDMONTON – A class-action lawsuit filed against XL Foods by a man who contracted E. coli claims the company concealed knowledge of poor quality control at its Brooks plant to maintain profit and avoid negative publicity.

Edmontonian Matthew Harrison, 30, claims that XL Food steaks he consumed Sept. 5 made him “extremely ill” with E. coli and led to abdominal cramping, vomiting, headache and fever. He was hospitalized for treatment, his lawsuit states.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable for this,” Harrison said at a Wednesday news conference. “The meat should have never left the plant. Obviously the checks and balances aren’t in order.”

The addition to the physical illness, Harrison claims he suffered “mental distress, emotional trauma and fear for his health.”

XL Foods had “negligent quality control, monitoring, processing, storage, distribution and sale of certain beef products,” the lawsuit alleges.

It also claims XL Foods breached the Fair Trading Act by misleading customers who believed they were buying safe food products.

Harrison’s lawyer Richard Mallett said his company, James H. Brown and Associates, has got “dozens” of calls from as far away as Ontario since word of the lawsuit hit the media Tuesday afternoon.

“As the news gets out, people start to realize, ‘hey, I was really sick,’” Mallett said. “They’re talking to their doctors and then giving us a call.”

Harrison alleges the company was negligent because it failed to test beef products properly, failed to ensure and follow proper quality control, failed to hire enough food safety experts, failed to properly train staff and failed “to recall all of its tainted beef immediately up learning that people were becoming ill after ingesting them.”

The lawsuit alleges XL Foods knew of its poor quality control and purposely withheld that knowledge from the public for its own financial self-interest and reputation.

The lawsuit hasn’t named Costco, where Harrison purchased the grilling steaks linked to E. coli, or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, although Mallett said additional parties could be named defendants at a later point.

Statements of claim contain allegations not proven in court.

The lawsuit also says E. coli was first detected at an XL Foods plant in Brooks Sept. 4., but the company claimed there was no link between E. coli cases and its beef as late as Sept. 26, after beef recalls were done.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency temporarily shut the Brooks plant Sept. 28

The lawsuit, which is the beginning of an attempt to build a class-action suit, does not name a financial figure. Other claimants could join the lawsuit in the future, although a judge will have to certify the lawsuit as a class-action before it can proceed. Mallett said there may be a framework for different effects suffered by claimants.

A class-action lawsuit is launched on behalf of an undetermined number of people who may otherwise launch individual suits that are difficult to prosecute. Lawyers will have to advertise for any claimants who believe they are entitled to a portion of any award.

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Edmontonian Matthew Harrison’s lawsuit against XL Foods

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