XL Foods' persistent problems

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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OTTAWA, Ontario – Documents obtained by CTV News, a Canadian news station, revealed food safety problems continued at the XL Foods – Lakeside beef processing facility in Brooks, Alberta two years after the plant launched the largest beef recall in Canadian history. The documents include inspection reports and requests for corrective action from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

For example, CFIA reported in October 2014 that beef trim exported to the United States tested presumptive positive for E. coli O157:H7. The agency said an application was submitted to return 18 bins of the beef for rendering in Canada or rendering within the US under a plan approved by the Food Safety and Inspection Service. In 2012, JBS USA assumed management of the XL Lakeside facility in Brooks in October, and later negotiated an exclusive option to purchase XL properties including the Lakeside beef packing plant.

CFIA noted that test results support process control, but officials at the plant identified an opportunity to improve the side pull step. Apparently, the hides on front shanks of cattle naturally ride under the side pull operator's bench but can pop out an up if the shanks pull out from under the bench.

“If this occurs, there is potential for cross-contamination due to transfer of hide contaminants from the abrupt upward movement of the hide on front shanks to the exposed carcass hide,” CFIA said in its report. The plant agreed to rebuild the side pull operator’s bench.

Other problems at the plant included flies in the facility’s offal pack area, box area, slaughter hallway, slaughter stairwell leading to the CFIA office and the cafeteria used by employees on the slaughter floor. CFIA said in its report that the plant’s Sanitation and Pest Control Prerequisites program “failed to identify any evidence of flies between visits by Ecolab.”

An employee interviewed about the matter said “Only Ecolab monitors and documents fly activity in the establishment; Quality Assurance does not do anything with flies.”

JBS responded to the report by saying Ecolab Pest Control Services was contracted to install mist devices. However, the mist units didn't arrive and Ecolab was unable to install the units by the target completion date.

CFIA also found that an employee failed to contain specified risk materials in a designated room. The inspector found SRM waste moving out of a bay door an up through an exterior drain. In another instance, CFIA stopped production when a “head and associated part” was placed on a conveyor from the SRM-designated zone. The items were removed from the conveyor and placed into a SRM container.

Other problems CFIA found included no running water in bathroom sinks; no running water in urinals; toilets that didn't flush and other issues involving employee facilities.
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