02/11/2013 01:26 EST | Updated 04/13/2013 05:12 EDT

XL Foods Panelists Will Make Up To $1,300 Daily To Review Outbreak

OTTAWA - It will cost taxpayers up to $3,500 a day, plus expenses, for a panel to review the E. coli outbreak at an Alberta meat plant last fall.

The federal government last week opened a review of the circumstances in which the potentially deadly bacteria was found in the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta.

The review will be conducted by an independent, three-member panel.

A cabinet order dated Feb. 5 shows that Ronald Lewis, the former chief veterinary officer for British Columbia, will be paid up to $1,300 a day to chair the panel.

The two other members, Northwest Territories chief public health officer Andre Corriveau and Ronald Usborne, a former executive with Caravelle Foods, will each be paid up to $1,100 per day.

Other expenses, including travel, accommodation and hiring expert staff will add to the overall bill.

The review is to focus on what contributed to the outbreak at XL Foods, how well the Canadian Food Inspection Agency responded and why tainted meat ended up on store shelves and in peoples' kitchens.

Neither Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, nor his department, would answer questions about whether the cost of the panel is in line with other similar reviews conducted previously.

Instead, Ritz offered that "safe food for Canadian consumers is our first priority."

"This review is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that Canadians continue to have one of the safest food safety systems in the world," Ritz said in an emailed statement.

"We look forward to receiving the report and we will review its recommendations."

The panel has a mandate to review the XL Foods recall until May 3.

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