The largest beef recall in Canadian history grew even larger Monday with the government’s announcement that more products are being taken off the market for potential E. coli contamination. Alberta-based XL Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 260 more varieties of beef, announced the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in a health alert yesterday. These newly recalled meats have been added to hundreds of other beef products recalled by the company in the past two weeks. The problem was initially discovered by U.S. inspectors who discovered E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef samples taken at the Canadian border in Canada. CFIA conducted its own testing the next day, but the first recall was not initiated until September 16. Since that time, CFIA has expanded the recall 13 times and U.S. retailers have announced recalls of beef products from XL sold in at least 41 states. Over 1,100 beef products have hit the chopping block as part of this recall. At least four illnesses have been linked to beef strips manufactured by XL and sold at Costco, and five more are known to be under investigation. Some beef products listed in this latest recall – including rump roast, soup bones and tenderized hip steak among others – have not been listed in previous recalls updates linked to the outbreak, which have mainly included ground beef and various whole and tenderized cuts. Items subject to this recall were manufactured on the same dates as XL’s previously recalled ground beef products, according to CFIA. Specifically, these production dates include August 24, 27, 28, 29 and September 5, 2012. A full list of the newly recalled meats is available here. Affected products were sold in retail stores across the country, including Dominion, Extra Foods, Real Atlantic, Save Easy, ValuFoods, Valu-mart, VillageMart and Zehrs, among others. At least one-third of the Canadian beef supply is estimated to be affected by XL’s recent recalls. CFIA has closed the XL plant in Alberta until further notice, although Monday before the latest recall was issued there was talk of the plant reopening within the next few days. Canadian officials say this recall investigation has prompted CFIA to examine product tracking requirements for companies in order to improve traceback. “If they don’t put the dots together to get the big picture for the day, they may be missing something. And that’s where we have an improvement and we’re going to make something happen,” said Richard Arsenault, the agency’s director of meat inspection, according to the Edmonton Journal.

  • This recall is becoming more intriguing every day. First of all, XL’s lack of kill floor sanitation over a several day period reveals that meat inspection authorities in both Canada and the US allows slaughter facilities to experience multiple E.coli positive daily without requiring the kill facility to implement corrective actions to prevent recurrences. Perhaps the two governments will establish a 3%, 5%, or 7% incidence of adverse lab reports before enforcement actions will commence? FSIS ardently requires USDA-inspected plants to scientifically justify plant decisions, that is, plants must support their decisions. Likewise, we need to require USDA & CFIA to justify or support their 3%, 5%, 7% or whatever exclusions using scientific principles. They won’t. They can’t. And they are both looking for places to hide.
    Secondly, the recall impacts INTACT beef cuts, such as Strips. But, this can’t be! USDA has tenaciously contended that E.coli are adulterants only in non-intact cuts such as ground beef, and in boneless trim intended for grinding. USDA has intentionally stuck its head in the sand by proclaiming that E.coli residing on the exterior of intact cuts are NOT adulterants! Admittedly, agency documents this year reveal that FSIS is reconsidering its past foolish and unjustifed position on the issue of intact cuts allegedly not destined for grinding. However, I’ve not yet seen any official FSIS rules or policies which forcefully state that E.coli O157:H7 and the other 6 STEC’s are indeed adulterants when existing on intact cuts. This past exclusion was formulated to protect the large source slaughter plants from accountability, and to prevent “Rolling Recalls” such as is occurring in this XL recall which is expanding in scope daily.
    As long as FSIS allows intact cuts such as boxed beef to be shipped into commerce when surface-contaminated with any of the 7 STEC’s, we are virtually guaranteed ongoing outbreaks.
    I challenge FSIS to publicly issue a formal document in which it reveals what should be obvious to any sensible person, i.e., that STEC’s on intact cuts are lethal adulterants, and that slaughter plants cannot ship adulterants into commerce.
    It is ironic that in the next-to-last paragraph above, reference is made to Canadian officials admitting the need for improving Traceback (to the SOURCE) protocol. For the last year, FSIS has been stating the same. Here we are, 12 years since HACCP was implemented in the US, and gov authorities in the US and Canada are only now at this late date giving lip service to Tracebacks to the SOURCE.
    The day must come when the source slaughter plants become accountable for the presence of E.coli in the products they ship into commerce. And yes, including INTACT products which in the past have been treated as sacrosanct by FSIS officials who claim they are interested in public health & food safety.
    John Munsell