April 17, 2014

JBS Takes Over Troubled XL Foods Beef Plant

XL Foods announced this week that it was giving control of the Alberta Canada plant to the world’s largest beef processing company: JBS of Brazil. Beef from that facility, which has been closed since September 28, 2012, is linked to an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak that has sickened at least 16 people in Canada. If XL sells the facility to JBS, they will receive $100 million in the deal. JBS will not assume any XL Foods debt or liabilities.

The facility has recalled millions of pounds of beef products, including ground beef, roasts, steaks, jerky, and other foods since September 17, 2012. The recall has been expanded 18 times.

The Canadian government said that the change in management “will not affect the CFIA’s assessment” of the facility. So far, the CFIA’s test results in their investigation have been negative for E. coli, although public health officials observed violations of food safety and processing laws at the plant. The plant remains closed and no XL beef will enter the food chain until it is confirmed safe.

Doug O’Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said, “JBS is going to have to come in here and prove they can run the plant and in order to do that, they’re going to have to reach out to the workers.”

JBS’s record is not squeaky clean. The Brazilian meat processor was delisted by the USDA on May 6, 2010, because its product had “violative levels of the animal drug Ivermectin” in its products. In June 2009, Swift & Company, an American food processing company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of JBS S.A., issued a recall of 380,000 beef primal cuts that may have been contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.

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