XL Foods Inc. says it’s ready to re-open its packing plant here because all issues have been addressed.
But the union representing 2,200 workers say there are still issues that compromise food safety that need to be addressed, particularly line speeds that are too fast.
The company says the plant has capacity to slaughter up to 4,000 cattle a day. A few years ago, before it was bought, then sold, by Tyson Foods, the capacity was 2,500 head per day.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency shut down the plant more than a week ago because of contamination with E. coli 0157:H7 that has resulted in the recall of close to 2,000 beef products labeled for dozens of retailers and distributed from coast to coast to coast in Canada, to 41 states of the United States and 20 other countries.
“The union has sought and continues to seek a review of line speeds and reduction in line speeds to ensure that workers have adequate time to deal with food safety matters,” the union wrote in a statement on its website.
“Line speeds are a serious problem. Employees are pushed too hard as Lakeside is more concerned, it seems, with the quantity of beef produced rather than the quality of beef produced.”
The statement also says washrooms are dirty and sewage backs up.
Since the plant was shut down, information about shoddy conditions in the plant have leaked out bit by bit, such as hot-water hoses being plugged, foul odours rising from floor drains and inadequate plant sanitation and records.
The plant is one of the largest in Canada and its problems threaten the reputation of Canadian beef.
It’s not clear whether the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is preparing to follow up with its audit at XL Beef to conduct similar audits at other Canadian slaughter plants. It appears that audits are necessary to catch issues and problems that the full-time on-site CFIA inspectors are missing.
And what, pay tell, is going to happen to all of the recalled beef? The CFIA won't tell the public what it is prepared to allow the company to do with all that meat, nor is the company saying much about anything to do with the sad situation.