The Alberta plant involved in a sweeping recall of ground beef products because of E. coli contamination concerns is not allowed to ship meat to the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says XL Foods Inc.'s Lakeside plant was decertified from exporting meat on Sept. 13 — three days before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued the first of seven product recall notices in Canada.
"Delisted in this case means Canadian Est. 38 (XL Foods) is not eligible to export any meat, poultry or egg products to the U.S.," a spokesman for the U.S. food safety inspection service (FSIS) wrote Tuesday in an email from Washington, D.C.
"When a plant is delisted by the U.S. or the foreign government they are not eligible to export FSIS regulated products to the U.S."
Canada imposed the export ban at the request of the U.S. government, a CFIA official later confirmed. The U.S. is the main buyer of Canadian beef exports. The XL Foods Lakeside plant near Brooks, Alta., is the second largest in Canada.
The U.S.D.A. is also recalling XL Foods ground beef products from six grocery retail chains in eight states as part of a public health alert. These products shipped to the U.S. before the ban on the XL Foods plant was imposed.
A Canadian Food Inspection Agency review of the plant found deviations in the way the company documented its E. coli control measures, but didn't find one single factor that would lead to contamination.
The agency says so far more than 250 beef products have been recalled from stores across Canada. Health officials have not linked the recall to anyone getting sick.
XL Foods officials in Edmonton were not available to answer questions about the agency's review of its E. coli policies or the U.S. export ban.
The company said in a release that it was taking steps to improve the way it operates, but also said its E. coli control programs work well.
"The review conducted by CFIA verified the effectiveness of XL's E. coli 0157:H7 control program," the company said.
"XL has developed and initiated a response plan that exceeds industry standards and has been accepted by CFIA."
It was U.S. food safety inspectors who first notified Canada about E. coli found in Canadian beef at the border on Sept. 3 — 10 days before Washington asked for an export ban on the Lakeside plant and nearly two weeks before the CFIA began issuing product recalls in Canada.
Dr. Richard Arsenault, director of meat programs for the CFIA, said a Canadian team needed time to inspect the plant and review production records to figure out the extent of the possible contamination and which batches of beef should be recalled.
The agency said it will monitor the changes XL Foods' Lakeside plant is to make to its E. coli policies to ensure they are effective, but it also warned more products from the plant could be recalled.
Arsenault said despite the recall, Canada's food safety system is working well.
"The overall controls are stronger than they have ever been, the overall prevalence (of E. coli) in product is lower than it has ever been, the rate of illness is lower than it has ever been," he said from Ottawa.
"This is still an incident that we don't think is acceptable. We are going to work to try and make sure that we don't have this happen in that plant or anywhere else in Canadian plants in the future."
Officials from Canada's beef industry hope the recall won't undermine consumer confidence in Canadian beef products.
Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said his staff are helping with the federal investigation into the tainted meat.
Olson said that while it's a federal responsibility, it's Alberta's reputation that is also at risk.
"We want to maintain the excellent reputation that we have in the country, on the continent and in the world in terms of safe food, so (are we) concerned? Certainly."
Harold Martens, president of the Saskatchewan Stockgrowers, said he is disappointed the Alberta plant can't export to the U.S. and hopes the problem can be resolved quickly.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he is satisfied with how the E. coli recall and investigation have been handled.
He said Canadian inspectors detected a batch of tainted beef from the plant at a secondary processing facility in Calgary on Sept. 4 and they prevented any of the meat from being sold in stores.
He said because the entire batch was seized, there was no need for a recall at that time.
Ritz said that XL Foods then voluntarily agreed to recall beef products produced within ten days before Sept. 4 and ten days after that date as a precaution.
"They have done an exemplary job. Both XL staff there as well and CFIA have lived up to the high standard of food safety that we insist in Canada," he said from Ottawa.
Producers and the industry have worked hard to raise the profile of Canadian beef, which took a major hit in 2003 during the mad cow disease scare, prompting many countries, including the U.S., to temporarily ban the products.
Ron Glaser of Canada Beef Inc., an industry marketing organization, said consumers believe in Canada's food safety system and won't shy away from beef products in grocery stores.
"They trust the system and typically we don't see long-term impacts in terms of consumer confidence or behaviour based on a recall like this," he said from Calgary.
"Consumers understand that these things are rare, they are not the norm."
Arsenault said the CFIA hopes to make a formal request to the U.S. in the coming days to again allow beef from the Lakeside plant to be exported.
Food & Water Watch
Sheila Gunn Reid
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A common bacterial infection producing severe gastrointestinal upset that can hang around as long as two weeks. It's rarely fatal in healthy people. <strong>The culprits: </strong>Improperly slaughtered or processed meat not thoroughly cooked, contaminated vegetables, milk or water. Pets can also shed the bacteria through their "business." <strong>What it feels like: </strong>You'd pay closer attention to the flulike symptoms (fever, aches and pains) if you weren't running to the bathroom every 15 minutes of your life. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have: </strong>Plucked that mass-processed pack of pork chops out of the "manager's special" bin. Also, if you really need to be told, leave seagulls alone. They're neither friendly nor tasty and are known to harbor higher concentrations of the bacteria. Common sense and decent kitchen cleanliness should protect you from needless downfall. <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.foodrepublic.com/2011/08/31/are-these-5-foods-trying-kill-you?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=food-poisoning" target="_hplink">Are These 5 Foods Trying To Kill You?</a></strong> <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartwebster/5829527553/" target="_hplink">StuartWebster</a></em>
Contrary to what literature might have you believe, there will be no love in the time of cholera, only misery, woe and lots of diarrhea. <strong>The culprits:</strong> Contaminated water and eating raw or undercooked seafood that was hanging out in that water. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> Being slowly dried in a dehydrator that looks surprisingly like your bathroom while your abdomen is squeezed by a giant godlike fist. You might just want to set up shop in there for a spell, the toxin in the cholera bacteria causes any water in your body to "release." Replenish as you might, it likely won't stay in there very long. Keep at it diligently, though, and you'll be fine in about a week. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Splashed around in a stagnant portion of the Meekong Delta for so long, or eaten those Mexican oysters with quite as much gusto. <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/philosophygeek/3964899327/" target="_hplink">philosophygeek</a></em>
E. Coli Enteritis
The black sheep of the food poisoning world, E. coli's the one with a strain that'll actually kill you regardless of treatment attempts. How subversive. <strong>The culprits</strong>: Escherichia coli, or E. for short, has one incredibly powerful strain: O157:H7, although other related strains can cause infection as well. This bacterium is found in mass-processed ground beef and on vegetables that were improperly cleaned or handled by contaminated fingers. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> You've been stabbed in the colon, which would explain the crippling cramps and other things that might happen if one were actually stabbed in the colon, including blood. Not that there's a "better" food poisoning to get, but this is one you really want to avoid. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Eaten that rare burger of questionable origin while chugging raw milk in that crazy crowded public pool, all of which have been known to harbor the bacteria. <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.foodrepublic.com/2011/06/06/update-new-e-coli-culprit-europe?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=food-poisoning" target="_hplink">Update: New E. Coli Culprit In Europe</a></strong> <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/khawkins04/5969315133/" target="_hplink">khawkins04</a></em>
Ciguatera (Fish Poisoning)
An incurable disease caused by eating fish contaminated by coral algae toxins. A real doozy, with an estimated 50,000 cases each year. <strong>The culprits:</strong> Ciguatera is limited to fish of tropical origin. It's impossible to detect by seafood processors, and can't be killed by cooking or freezing. Live in fear of grouper, or continue on with your life with relatively minimal risk. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> At first, typical food poisoning symptoms may present, but the bigger problem with ciguatera is its severe and often irreversible neurological effects. These can include trouble sensing hot or cold, tingling "phantom limb" pain in the extremities and other symptoms that may be confused with anything from multiple sclerosis to heart failure. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have: </strong>Hit that fried "mystery tropical fish" eating contest at that Margaritaville in that tropical location with your buddies. To minimize your risk of catching this seriously unfun bug, make sure you know what your fish is and if possible, where it came from. Larger fish from shallower waters in a tropical environment are your worst bet. <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/04/06/trouble-brewing-fda-and-sushi?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=food-poisoning" target="_hplink">Trouble Brewing For The FDA. And, Sushi.</a> </strong> <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alonsoinostrosa/4055075930/" target="_hplink">alonso_inostrosa</a></em>
The range of listeria infection, or listeriosis, lands you somewhere between asymptomatic and dead and can occur from eating or drinking basically anything that was grown, raised or milked. <strong>The culprits:</strong> Raw or improperly pasteurized dairy products, vegetables grown in contaminated soil (yup, it can live in soil), preserved and smoked meats (can be identified by a slippery or slimy film), canned and raw seafood and fresh fruit. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> A bad flu, although more serious complications like meningitis can occur in people with weakened immune systems, as well as in young children, pregnant women and the elderly. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Eaten all those root vegetables straight from the ground without washing them right after milking your cow. I mean a hippie farmer's life is great, unless your land is rife with listeria. <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/9229859@N02/2575380447/" target="_hplink">bucklava</a></em>
This is the picnic food poisoning everyone warns you about, especially you, dude who brought the mayo-choked potato salad (<a href="http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/02/10/potato-salad-horseradish-recipe ?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=food-poisoning" target="_hplink">try this one instead</a>). <strong>The culprits:</strong> The bacteria releases its toxins at the comfy incubator that is room temperature food, which gives staph food poisoning its signature cookout-ruining reputation. The worst part? Reheating contaminated food won't kill it off. Actually the worst part is the symptoms. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> Explosive, and not in a romantic feelings kind of way. Within an hour of ingesting contaminated food, both ends will be entirely occupied for up to a day. The good news is, once it's out, it's out and you can get right back to the picnic. Oh wait, it's over. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Microwaved that leftover potato salad thinking no bug could possibly survive the ordeal. <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart_spivack/274140418/" target="_hplink">stu_spivack</a></em>
The bacteria that causes salmonellosis, or salmonella poisoning, has a serious reputation among poultry and their handlers, and BOY does it love hanging out on the stretches of counter you missed with the sanitizer. <strong>The culprits:</strong> Although eggs, processed chicken parts and other raw meat are particularly good at spreading the bacteria, pet reptiles and rodents are also carriers. Wash everything any dead or live animal comes in contact with and maybe don't allow live animals in the kitchen while you're cooking, period. <strong>What it feels like:</strong> Your small intestine betraying you entirely. Expect a week or so of your typical diarrhea, abdominal cramps and possibly a fever. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Attempted your own Japanese-style chicken breast sashimi or let Shelly the turtle roam around willy-nilly on the cutting board. Especially before slicing said chicken sashimi. <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vseehua/518875309/" target="_hplink">Casper Jen</a></em>
Similar to salmonella but yet so very different is shigella, which attacks the large intestine rather than the small. <strong>The culprit: </strong>You're going to love this -- human waste. While plenty of food-borne illness can be spread this way, particularly by catching a ride in food or water, many cases of shigellosis can be directly attributed to contact with... well, you know. It can also be resistant to antibiotics, so definitely practice safe sewage-wading. <strong>What it feels like: </strong>Salmonella, only with more blood. <strong>Maybe you shouldn't have:</strong> Taken on that blackout drunken dare to see what's really under that manhole by the creek, then gone straight to In-N Out. Just maybe. We live in a developed nation, you almost have to try to get this one. It's Darwinism, people. <em>Photo via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanreading/6141237661/" target="_hplink">Nathan Reading</a></em>