OTTAWA - More beef was ordered off Canadian store shelves amid a promise of more recalls to come Friday as food-safety officials sought to explain why it took three weeks to shut down the Alberta meat-packing plant at the centre of Canada's latest E. coli scare.

When routine testing first detected a problem on Sept. 4, there was no compelling reason for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to order a recall or shut down the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., CFIA officials said.


STORY CONTINUES UNDER SLIDESHOW

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  • August 23

    Cows are slaughtered at XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta. Beef slaughtered that day will later be recalled.

  • August 24, 27, 28 & 29

    Beef processed at the Brooks facility on these days is later recalled.

  • September 23

    Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is alerted by U.S. officials that beef from the Brooks plant has tested positive for E. coli bacteria. An investigation begins.

  • Septemeber 4

    Four consumers who bought Kirkland Signature brand strip loin grilling steaks from Edmonton Costco at 13650 50th St. N.E. later become ill.

  • September 4

    A Calgary girl, 4, is hospitalized for symptoms caused by E. coli bacteria.

  • September 11 & 12

    Four in Edmonton who ate Kirkland strip loin steak seek medical for symptoms of E. coli poisoning. Two went to hospital but all four are recovering.

  • September 16

    The CFIA issues their first warning, telling people not to eat, sell or serve 26 ground beef/ground-beef products sold at several major stores because they “may be contaminated with E. coli.” Although XL Foods Inc. voluntarily issued the recall, no reported illnesses have been linked to this recall.

  • September 17

    55 more ground beef and ground-beef products are added to the list of products recalled across Canada. All were manufactured at the XL plant in Brooks, Alta.

  • September 18

    Fourteen more products are added to the recall list.

  • September 19

    XL Foods releases a statement saying XL Foods prides itself on providing safe and high quality beef products. Meanwhile, the recall list by the CFIA grows to add 75 more items.

  • September 20

    The United States Food Safety and Inspection Service issues a public-health alert, while the CFIA adds another 37 products to the recall.

  • September 21

    Another 47 products are added to the recall.

  • September 22

    Another 10 products are added to the recall.

  • September 24

    An in-depth review uncovers “several deficiencies” during an investigation into the Brooks facility.

  • September 25

    - 60 products to the Canadian recall. - U.S. recalls products in California, Oregon, Michigan, Nebraska, Utah, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. - Alberta Health Services (AHS) investigate a total of eight E. coli cases - four in Edmonton, three in Calgary and one in central Alberta. The tests confirm Edmonton patients were infected by E. coli-tainted steaks bought at Costco. The CFIA is notified about the test results.

  • Spetember 26

    - The CFIA recalls Kirkland steaks packaged and sold September 4-7 from the Edmonton Costco. - It is confirmed the steaks were processed by XL Foods Inc. in Brooks. - Costco stores are asked by top doctors to stop using a meat-tenderizing machine that could potentially move E. coli bacteria from the surface of the meat to the centre. - Ten states are now affected by the The United States Food Safety and Inspection Service recall.

  • September 27

    AHS investigates a fourth case of E. coli in Calgary. AHS is investigating what caused E. coli poisoning in the Calgary patient and the central Alberta patient.

  • September 28

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspends the operating licence of XL Foods' Brooks plant.

  • September 28

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspends the operating licence of XL Foods' Brooks plant

  • September 28

    There was no initial reason to order a public recall or shut down the XL Foods facility in Brooks, say officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, defending their delay in alerting the public.

  • September 28

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency comes under fire. Alberta Premier Alison Redford and NDP MP Linda Duncan question the delay in alert.

  • September 28

    The Canadian Cattlemen's Association says it's possible federal regulators will clear the XL Foods beef plant to resume operations by next week but the real challenge will be getting U.S. to accept beef exports from the plant again.

  • September 29

    The beef recall expanded to Co-Op, Metro and Walmart stores in Canada.

  • September 30

    The beef recall gets expanded to include dozens of cuts of meat.

  • September 30

    Alberta Premier Alison Redford says Alberta beef is safe and that the province breeds a high quality product with the highest standards possible.

  • October 1

    The Liberals and the NDP gang up on the Conservative government over the safety of Canada's meat supply.

  • October 2

    Beef recall is expanded again. This time to include dozens of additional products including roasts and sausages.

  • October 2

    The XL Foods beef recall gets expanded to B.C. More than 20 B.C. retail chains pull beef products from their shelves as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency continues to expand the recall from the plant.

  • October 2

    The XL foods beef recall becomes the biggest beef recall in Canadian history.

  • October 4

    XL Foods finally breaks silence, issuing a press release in which they took responsibility for the circumstances that led to the recalls. Not much was made available in terms of explanation or courses of action. Meanwhile, the recall is expanded yet again.

  • October 5

    Workers at the XL plant in Brooks speak out and what they have to say is not pretty. They describe high output demands, low staffing levels of disgusting hygiene issues. Meanwhile, the CFIA says the plant failed to maintain or update it's E. coli plan.

  • October 5

    Five new E. coli cases are linked to the tainted meat. Recall expands again.

  • October 8

    The beef recall, the largest in Canadian history, got much bigger with meats being pulled off shelves in Hong Kong.

  • October 9

    Federal inspectors begin a detailed assessment of the Brooks XL Foods Plant. The investigation would last weeks.

  • October 10

    This little baby starts making its rounds... Meanwhile, the union at the plant said it was a case of greed over health that led to the massive recall and claim the plant is nowhere near safe.

  • October 11

    A partial reopening of the plant is considered and Alberta Premier Alison Redford rejects calls for a provincial inquiry into the recall.

  • October 12

    The U.S. announces it will audit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as Quebec E. coli cases are linked to the Alberta plant and new E. coli cases are confirmed in B.C.

  • October 13

    2,000 workers at the XL Foods plant in Brooks are temporarily laid off.

  • October 14

    800 of the 2,000 workers temporarily laid off the day before are recalled so that CFIA can continue its investigation in the plant.

  • October 17

    JBS USA announce they're taking over the management of the plant and reserve the option to purchase XL Foods. Earlier that day, workers at the plant were laid off again, as the recall of beef products expands yet again.

  • October 17

    Also on the 17th, B.C. residents announce their intent to sue XL Foods over E. coli-tainted meat, as Brooks declares itself in a state of crisis due to the thousands of workers, many of them of foreign origin and of modest means, are left without income and in need of services.

  • October 17

    JBS USA announces it intends to work with the union and the community to fix the conditions in the plant that led to the massive beef recalls.

  • October 19

    The CFIA announces that some of the meat stored in warehouses after the recalls may end up on your dinner table once the recalls end. Meanwhile, remaining carcasses at the plant test negative for E. coli.

  • October 21

    Tons of meant from the XL Foods plant is tossed into Alberta landfills.

  • October 22

    Former XL Foods manager says CFIA inspectors require better training. Later that afternoon, it is announced that all workers would return to the plant on Oct. 29 for further training and to partially reopen the beleaguered plant.

  • October 25

    JBS CEO Bill Rupp addressed the Brooks plant, the community and the media and vowed that safety at the plant would be the number one priority, adding the culture at the plant would change for the better.

  • October 29

    Production at the XL Foods plant in Brooks resumes for the first time since E. Coli tainted meat from the plant resulted in the largest Canadian beef recall in history.

  • October 30

    R-CALF, a U.S. ranchers lobby group, asks U.S. courts to block the possible sale of the Brools XL Foods plant to JBS USA, which is at the time managing the plant but which has reserved the option to buy the Alberta facility, as well as some U.S. plants. (Getty)

  • Nov. 1

    Another case of E. coli is linked to the XL Foods Inc. plant in Alberta. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the case was in Quebec, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the country to 17.

  • Nov. 4

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency discloses that its staff observed a number of problems at XL Foods the previous week, as the plant worked to get back to normal operations. They included meat areas that weren't adequately cleaned and water sanitizer that wasn't maintained at a high enough temperature.

  • Nov. 14

    The total number of e-coli cases across the country linked to the XL Foods Brooks plant climbs to 18. The Public Health Agency of Canada said the new case is in Alberta.

Since then, however, the plant southeast of Calgary has had its operating licence temporarily suspended and products have been recalled for fear of E. coli contamination.

Late Friday, the agency issued yet another recall, this time for "whole muscle cuts" of beef from XL Foods, including steaks and roasts, on top of the list of previously recalled ground beef products.

The stores named in the latest release include Wal-Mart, Food Basics, Metro, Co-op stores and Steakhouse Angus Select.

In Quebec, Marche Richelieu, Marches A-M-I, Metro, Metro F, Metro Plus, Metro Plus F and Super C were added to the list.

And the CFIA says further recalls are likely in the days ahead.


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When testing in the U.S. and Canada first detected a possible E. coli issue in the plant, there was nothing to indicate that any tainted meat had reached consumers, said Brian Evans, a special adviser to the agency.

"The primary issue at that time was to identify if, in fact, there was any product in the marketplace that needed to be recalled," Evans told a news conference in Ottawa.

"We did confirm that neither the product that we had found through our testing program or the product that the U.S. had identified ... had gone into the marketplace. Issuing a recall for a product that isn't in the public domain isn't something that we're able to do."

Evans said further information on Sept. 10 triggered an "intensive, in-depth review" that included sending a team of specialists into the plant to search for a possible problem.

Continuing daily testing during that period did not reveal anything "to suggest that the product was of a significant concern," Evans said.

"We were 24 hours, pedal-to-the-metal, in the plant through the (Sept. 15-16) weekend trying to satisfy ourselves that consumers were not being put at risk."

It wasn't until Thursday, however, that the plant's operating licence was suspended. XL Foods has not yet taken the steps necessary to allow the plant to resume operations, and won't be allowed to do so until it does, Evans said.

The problem, he added, appears to be the result of different factors — none of which would by themselves normally pose a problem — combining to create a heightened risk.

Evans says all products currently at the plant are "under CFIA detention and control," and will be released only after being tested for E. coli. Any products found to be contaminated would be sent to a landfill, he said.

MORE BEEF RECALL NEWS

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture again extended its public health alert about the company's products sold at stores in 30 states, including those of retail giant Walmart.

The department's food safety and inspection service said XL Foods Inc. was voluntarily recalling all beef products from these stores — not just ground beef — over concerns about possible E. coli contamination.

"The agency is using this public health alert to make the public aware that these products are considered adulterated and should be returned to the place of purchase or destroyed," the department said Friday in a release out of Washington, D.C.

Canada revoked the plant's permit to export beef to the U.S. on Sept. 13 at the request of the USDA. Since Sept. 16, the CFIA has issued at least eight recall alerts for XL Foods ground beef products over E. coli concerns.

Evans said more recall notices will likely be issued in the coming days as testing continues.

Opposition critics in Ottawa are demanding to know why it took so long.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale blamed the E. coli scare on changes to the meat inspection system introduced by the Harper Conservatives.

"The company fell short of proper standards way back in August, and this government's inspection system failed to be on top of it then," Goodale told the House of Commons.

"Partly, that's because government inspectors don't actually inspect much anymore. They just monitor company inspections."

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz insisted that food safety has not been compromised and the government actually has more inspectors on the job than in previous years.

The CFIA has 40 inspectors and six veterinarians working full-time at the Brooks XL Foods plant. Evans said staffing at the plant increased by roughly six employees over the last three years. Another team of eight CFIA employees was brought into the plant shortly after the E. coli problem was discovered, he said.

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne, attending a meeting of his federal and provincial colleagues in Halifax, praised officials for their work in dealing with the scare.

"I think our public-health officials have done a very good job over the last few days of updating Albertans," Horne said.

"Do I have any concerns as the minister of health that we're not on top of this? Absolutely not."

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association, meanwhile, was trying to reassure its 83,000 member producers about the closure of the XL Foods plant.

The closure will reduce the ability of the industry to slaughter and process live cattle, but it shouldn't have a significant effect on Canada's beef industry, beyond a brief, minor increase in price, the association said.

Locally, however, the impact could be significant, said Brooks Mayor Martin Shields, noting the plant is one of the area's largest employers.

"There are about 2,200 people who are gainfully employed with that company and a lot of them live within our community," Shields said. "That is a very large concern. That payroll is significant."

The union representing workers at the plant said it expected employees to continue receiving paycheques from the company while it is shut down.

But Tom Hesse of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said XL Foods has been slow to give its employees information about the closure.

"They are laid off either in the long or the short term, that's the bottom line," Hesse said. If they don't get paid, many will have to leave the area to find new jobs, he added.

"Sitting around in Brooks without any work," he said. "Why would they stay?"

The Canadian-owned XL Foods plant has a slaughter capacity of about 5,000 cattle a day.

Last year, an estimated 2.9 million cattle were slaughtered in federally inspected meat plants in Canada. Most of these cattle were processed in Alberta by the XL Foods plant in Brooks and by a Cargill-owned plant near High River.

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