Monday, October 15, 2012

XL, CFIA fail to inspire confidence

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency obviously failed to maintain a tight rein at the XL Foods Inc. plant at Brooks, Alta.

The evidence is clear from all of the many shortcomings the CFIA now says its inspectors have identified at the plant after the U.S. found E. coli 0157:H7 Sept. 4 in a shipment of beef to the U.S.

But what is becoming even more clear is that the owners and managers of XL Foods Inc. use high-pressure tactics to squeeze people and facilities to extract maximum profits.

They hire refugees, refugee applicants and immigrants in order to squeeze labour costs as low as possible.

They use their auction markets and loans to feedlot owners to squeeze money out of every change of cattle ownership or location.

They run line speeds as fast as possible to squeeze more profits out of their packing plant, equipment and workers.

They laid off all of their workers on Saturday so they could minimize their costs.

They called back 800 workers on Sunday to start running the plant again. Their interests are looked after, and the laid-off workers are left to fend for themselves.

Some in the news media see the layoffs on Saturday as a pressure tactic to get the CFIA to allow them to resume full production.
I hope it isn't so because that would indicate a poisonous relationship between the Nilsson family that owns XL Foods and the government inspectors.

We should hope and expect that they are on the same team, both committed to satisfying consumers that they are working as professionals to achieve food safety.

But if XL is constantly pushing the envelopes, there can be no public trust. 

And if the CFIA and the Harper government are using the situation to simply score political points, there can be no public trust.

And if there is no trust, who will buy Canadian beef?