OTTAWA, Alberta – Canada plans to spend C$16 million ($15.5 million) over the next three years to establish inspection teams that will conduct random spot checks of food plants across the country.
The announcement followed the release of a report from an independent panel established to review the beef recall that occurred at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta. The beef recall was the largest in Canadian history. Beef contaminated with E. coli sickened 18 people and prompted the recall of more than 1,800 products.
The Inspection Verification Teams (IVTs) that will conduct unannounced spot checks at food plants. The teams are meant to ensure that Canada's food safety system is effective and that food safety rules and standards are consistently and thoroughly followed and enforced, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement.
"Canadian families need to have confidence in our food safety system, which is why our Government initiated this independent review," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "We accept the panel's recommendations and are taking concrete steps to ensure that our system continues to provide safe food for Canadian families today and in the future."
In its report, the review panel said a series of inadequate responses by XL Foods plant staff and CFIA inspectors played the most critical part leading up to the recall. The review panel found a "weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff".
"We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures — clearly outlined in some documents, less so in others," the panel said in its executive summary. "Again, a shortcoming shared by both plant and CFIA staff.
"We found one of the country's largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history. As the company had never conducted any mock recalls on a scale that remotely mimicked a real event, XL Foods Inc. found itself overwhelmed with the recall that occurred."
São Paulo, Brazil-based JBS S.A., through its subsidiaries, acquired XL Foods' US and Canada meat production assets. JBS Food Canada Inc. acquired the Brooks XL Lakeside beef processing plant, while JBS USA, bought beef packing plants in Omaha, Neb. and another in Nampa, Idaho.