Canada’s CTV News went public with a four-year-old memorandum from the troubled XL Foods beef plant that told meat inspectors to turn a blind eye to fecal and intestinal contamination on carcasses—except for the beef headed for Japan.
The memo issued to inspectors by a meat hygiene supervisor at the Brooks, Alberta beef plant said Japan is “our number 1 priority.” Issued on Sept. 12, 2008, the memo instructed meat inspectors stationed at the carcass inspection post to “ensure than non Japan carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/duramater, OCD (other carcass defects) and minor ingesta (ignore them).”
CTV obtained the memo from the union representing meat inspectors at the beef plant, now managed by the Greeley,CO-based JBS, USA. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the same stringent food safety standards were imposed on meat for both domestic consumption and for export.
CFIA said required inspection tasks are accomplished at different stations. “The memo referenced simply emphasized this division of labor,” CFIA said in a statement issued Thursday in reaction of the CTV report.
The agency said the union raised the issue three weeks ago and it was clarified with the meat inspectors. However, Agriculture Union President Bob Kingston took issue with the explanation that carcass contaminates could be detected further down the line. He said the memo referenced “the last inspection station on the line.”
Earlier this year, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to beef sickened 18 Canadians and was accompanied by the largest beef recall in the country’s history, causing XL Foods to give up management of the Alberta plant to JBS.
On CTV, Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA’s executive director for western operations, suggested that decontamination showers with antimicrobial sprays would also be a back-up step if something were missed. Inspectors said that works for non-visible bacteria, but not feces and intestinal splatter.
The XL recall was extended to include 2.5 million pounds shipped to the United States. It was then blocked from further export to the U.S. No illnesses associated with the Brooks plants have surfaced outside Canada.© Food Safety News