Documents released under Access to Information indicate Burnbrae Farms Ltd. struggled for months trying to get rid of salmonella in its egg-grading station at Lyn.
Salmonella montivideo was first detected by CFIA testing in March, 2016, but it wasn’t until December that ongoing testing at the station failed to turn up salmonella.
Burnbrae filed repeated “action plans” to respond to the CFIA test results, but in April, July and September CFIA tests indicated those action plans did not clean up the grading station.
The issue is particularly serious if salmonella can get inside cracked eggs. The documents released to a reporter indicate that some cracked eggs did pass from that grading station to retail outlets.
Even though Burnbrae is the largest egg-grading, egg-producing and egg-processing business in Canada, capable of employing the most advanced and automated technology, CFIA inspections continued to detect eggs that were cracked and dirty.
Similar issues, albeit less frequent, turned up at Gray Ridge Eggs at Strathroy. It is Canada’s second-largest egg grader, producer and processor.
The two grade more than 90 per cent of eggs reaching consumers in Ontario.
Burnbrae not only had troubles with salmonella, but also with facility maintenance.
Inspectors filed repeated complaints about wet and dirty floors and condensation and twice extended deadlines to have floor repairs and relocation of a floor drain completed – first to Jan. 31, then to Feb. 28.
Burnbrae Farms also fed a ration containing an illegal chemical for laying hens. The CFIA detected residue and warned the company.
The documents indicate the CFIA considered the residue level detected in retail-ready eggs to be low enough that a recall was not necessary.
The chemical is not identified in the documents, but they are heavily censored, particularly responses Burnbrae filed with the CFIA. Most of those are completely blocked from release.
Both Burnbrae and Gray Ridge have a long history of marketing eggs that are cracked and dirty, all of it documented in previously-released inspection reports obtained via Access to Information.
There have been unofficial estimates that each of the companies has been able to increase profits in excess of $10 million a year by selling some cracked and dirty eggs.
Producers and the Ontario marketing board also profit by inflating the percentage of eggs that are passed off as Grade A – producers because they get paid top price for their eggs and the marketing board because it is funded by a levy, or tax, that applies only to Grade A eggs.