Gerry Ritz and the Conservatives are dismissing a leaked memo directing meat inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks to ignore contamination on beef destined for Canadian markets.
"Any carcass regardless of where destined that is contaminated is pulled from the line as is the carcass on either side of it, it's called bracketing," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says in a report by 680 News.
Ritz called the information false and misleading.
"There is zero tolerance for any carcass that has any fecal matter or any ingesta on it."
The 2008 memo written by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) meat hygiene supervisor at the Alberta plant - which only recently was allowed to process and market meat again after it was shut down in early September for e-coli contamination - was originally unearthed by CTV News.
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According to CTV, the memo instructed CFIA inspectors stationed at one of the plant’s final inspection stops to give extra scrutiny to carcasses shipped to Japan, but to ignore visible fecal and intestinal contamination on meat destined for Canadian markets.
“Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses,” the memo states, according to CTV.
“Ensure that non-Japan-eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD (other carcass defects) and minor ingesta,” the note continued. “Ignore them.”
According to the Globe and Mail, the memo was reissued to CFIA inspectors in 2010 and 2011, stating that contaminants would be detected later in the production process.
But Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, which represents inspectors, told the Globe and Mail the position referred to in the document is “the last inspection station on the line. So I’m not sure what they think comes later in the process that would pick that up.”