A beef about the recent recall of contaminated Canadian beef

Canadians’ confidence in our food system took another hit in November

Canadians’ confidence in our food system took another hit in November with revelations that meat inspectors at the XL Food plant in Alberta were told to give meat going to Japan better inspections than meat headed for Canadian store shelves.

A four-year-old memo stated that inspectors should ignore signs of fecal contamination on carcasses not intended for the Japanese market. The memo stated those carcasses would be dealt with later in the process at the plant.

However, union members at the XL Food plant said that wasn’t true, that the later process was simply a wash which could not remove contamination.

The first duty of any government is to keep citizens safe from harm. But it was American inspectors, not Canadian ones, who detected E-coli bacteria in beef from Canada’s XL Foods in September.

It took our government 12 days to issue even their first, limited recall. It grew to include fully a third of all Canadian beef products and became the largest food recall in Canadian history.

Local food security is a growing concern among my constituents. Access to local, safe, humane slaughterhouses is one concern that farmers and food activists continue to raise.

It is clear that consumers and producers on Vancouver Island want small, local-scale slaughter and meat-packing plants,

Even these provincially-regulated facilities are feeling the chill from the largest food recall in Canadian history and consumer wariness around the safety of our meat supply.

The Conservatives’ priorities on food safety are wrong. They adopted “industry self-regulation” for food safety. They cut funding for food inspection in their last budget. And they’re wrong to not take responsibility for this and help all of the beef producers, large and small, that are seeing their sales decline.

The union representing workers at the XL Foods plant in Brooks confirmed that workers have been scared into refusing to report food safety issues at the plant. Among these serious concerns is a failure to properly clean knives on the production line and a processing speed that is far too fast.

Near the end of November, CFIA reversed the instruction to ignore contaminated carcasses and ordered meat inspectors to stop a line and pull any carcass that had fecal contamination from the line. If that is the right thing to do now, why was it not right four years ago?