Canada
XL Foods had string of problems before E. coli outbreak, say regulators

XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta

Credits: REUTERS/Todd Korol

BILL KAUFMANN | QMI AGENCY

CALGARY - The new operators of the former XL Foods plant in Calgary have been issued two corrective orders over hygiene, say federal regulators.

That news comes on the heels of another report that the plant was slapped with five corrective orders in the months prior to its closure due to the discovery of E. coli.

Since meat packer JBS USA began preparing to process cattle at the plant, now Brooks Lakeside Packers, in early November 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued two Corrective Action Requests (CARs) - one of them calling attention to unsanitary equipment, said the CFIA's western region Executive Director Dr. Harpreet Kochhar.

"There have been a couple of times in which we've noticed a deviation and they've provided a corrective action plan," said Kochhar.

The earlier orders were handed to former operators XL Foods for infractions ranging from unsanitary water dripping into killing areas to unwashed cutting tools.

That series of shortcomings should have ensured inspectors caught an E. coli outbreak before it resulted in the biggest meat recall in Canadian history that sickened 18 people, said Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.

"There was no need to shut that plant if the proper things were done," he said.

The union's efforts to include more worker oversight in its last contract deal were rebuffed, he said.

Since JBS took over, safety has improved at the facility, said O'Halloran, but that vigilance must be maintained.

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