Canadians kept in the dark for days after US border closed to XL Food products

Ottawa – United States authorities closed the border to products from the E. coli 0157:H7-tainted XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta days before Canadian consumers were advised and a product recall was launched in Canada.

According to a bulletin from the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, the XL Foods plant was “de-listed” on September 13th, four days before the potentially tainted beef trim and associated products were recalled in Canada. “De-listing” means that the company is forbidden from shipping its products to US markets.

“This is more evidence that too much authority has been handed off to the industry to self-police that has resulted in this unacceptable delay,” says Fabian Murphy First National Vice President, of the Agriculture Union – PSAC.

Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the authority to force a product recall this power is rarely used in favour of persuading companies to “voluntarily” recall hazardous product, a process that takes too long.

Microbiological testing of a shipment of XL product destined for the United States by US inspectors at the Sweetgrass, Montana inspection station originally uncovered a positive test result for the E. coli bacteria.

The Canadian and US federal government are currently negotiating the elimination of the border inspection program that uncovered the problem. The “Beyond the Border” initiative would allow certain Canadian meat processors to leapfrog traditional border inspection. The program is at the pilot phase right now.

“XL Foods is a perfect example of why we need to keep and strengthen food inspection at the border, not eliminate it. Ottawa should cancel the pilot project and back away from this dangerous idea,” Fabian Murphy said.