Monday, October 22, 2012

Quebec veal processor’s licence suspended

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the licence of Écolait, a Quebec veal processing company, for three days this month.

News of the suspension came from a United States publication, Meatingplace, noting that the company lost its permission to export to the U.S.

Canadians may not have been informed because we, frankly, are left to take our chances as the company continues to distribute veal in Canada, but is banned at least temporarily from marketing in the U.S.

The CFIA suspended the licence on Oct. 15 and reinstated it on Oc. 18 when it judged that “certain hygiene requirements” that were not being met have been rectified.

Meatingplace reports that CFIA spokesperson Lisa Gauthier assured it that “there were no food safety risks associated with this situation.” Really? I find that difficult to believe.

The company is located at Saint-Hyacinthe, a major agricultural centre northeast of Montreal.
“Because [the facility] normally ships product to the United States, the CFIA informed U.S. authorities of the license suspension,” Gauthier said in a statement e-mailed to Meatingplace.

“Subsequently, the company was removed from the list of companies eligible to export to the U.S.”

Licence suspensions are rare and the CFIA normally applies them as a last resort and when public safety is at significant risk.

 There were licence suspensions for Maple Leaf Foods Inc. when it couldn’t track down the source of Lysteria monocytogenes at its Barton Road plant in Toronto, and there is one now on the XL Foods Inc. plant at Brooks, Alta.

Meanwhile, the beef recall at XL is mounting to hundreds of tonnes of more than 1,800 products from across North America and 10 other nations.

It’s mostly frozen and is being hauled to the local dump where it’s being buried under CFIA supervision
JBS USA managers are scheduled to meet soon with the XL union leaders to outline when it expects operations to resume and what it will expect from employees.

The company owners, the Nilsson family, gave up on managing the crisis that ensued when E. coli 0157:H7 was identified in its beef products, and called in JBS USA to manage the plant. The deal includes an option to purchase the facility, two packing plants in the United States and a large beef feedlot for $100 million.

Some say the assets are worth between $200 and $300 million and are a good fit for JBS which will be able to slaughter and export from either U.S. or Canadian packing plants.

Class-action lawsuits have been started by several legal firms. So far 16 people's illnesses have been definitely linked to E. coli 0157:H7 in XL beef products. The CFIA says this strain of the toxin-producing E. coli is distinctive.