A meat processor that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspected had an E. coli contamination problem last November is opting out of federal inspection entirely and will be regulated only by the Province of British Columbia.

Provincially regulated plants are not required to test for the E. coli bacteria. Federally licensed meat processing plants in Canada, however, are required to test for E. coli O157:H7, and report positive results to CFIA.

Pitt Meadows Meats, Ltd, one of BC’s largest meat processing plants, has been under scrutiny for not immediately reporting lab results when they turned up positive for E. coli O157:H7 last fall. The company is known for its “halal” beef and lamb products, made in accordance with Islamic law and sold in many Middle Eastern food markets in the greater Vancouver area.

After the test result Sept. 9, Pitt Meadows destroyed 61 cases of product, but did not notify CFIA. Then an employee whistleblower turned Pitt Meadows into CBC News. The company told the CBC it had questioned the validity of the test results, and suspected an employee might be trying to sabotage its operation.

After it became aware of the possible contamination, CFIA issued a public health warning Nov. 9, advising the Vancouver Islamic community not to eat meat from the plant.

Later tests were all negative for E. coli. Pitt Meadows was closed down for a month, but re-opened Dec. 6.

There were no reports of illnesses associated with Pitt Meadows meats last fall, but CFIA officials say the only way to know now if there is E. coli contamination at Pitt Meadows will be after someone gets sick.