The Canadian outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 cases linked to recalled XL Foods beef has grown with eleven cases. The new case was discovered on Vancouver Island. All of the cases are a confirmed match to the bacteria found at the XL plant. And XL Foods beef is now being recalled in Hong Kong. A small portion of the company’s products was shipped to local retailers in that city.
The CFIA is going to begin a “detailed assessment” of the XL Foods facility today. The facility has been closed since September 27, 2012 and will not reopen until the owners have implemented corrective actions. The facility will be inspected to “verify that sanitary conditions of both the slaughter and processing areas of the plant, including all equipment, meet the requirements of Canada’s Meat Inspection Regulations” according to the government’s statement.
The list of Corrective Action Requests issued to XL Foods is long. While the company had an appropriate plan to control food safety risks, the plan, known as hazard analysis and critical points (HACCP) was not being fully implemented or regularly updated. For instance, the company did not have detailed documents that outlined the required steps to take when a product tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7. Record keeping was insufficient and there were deficiencies in sampling techniques and procedures.
Maintenance and sanitation efforts were not up to standard. Refrigeration units had not been cleaned as frequently as the sanitation plan required. A drain near the rendering room was emitting a foul odor, and sanitizer was dripping from overhead structures onto product below. The evisceration table thermometer was not functioning properly, and employees sorting beef trim touched contaminated product without following appropriate washing and sanitizing procedures.
The government states that these problems were not found during routine inspection because those inspections “focus on key hazard control points were food risks are the greatest. Less critical aspects of production and facility maintenance are assessed, but less frequently. Therefore, some of the maintenance/sanitation issues found may not have been present on the day they were assessed.” We’ll keep you up to date on any further developments. Meanwhile, the recall and public health warning from the USDA in the United States is ongoing.