Meatingplace magazine delved into the record-breaking recall of beef by XL Foods Inc. and highlights differences between government approaches in the United States and Canada.
It says XL was hard hit because of “rolling recalls” that added more products and retail outlets on a daily basis as the recalling began in late September and that "amount(ed) to repeated punches in the public boxing ring."
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service tends to wait and then make one recall, Meatingplace found.
It does not discuss the implications for food safety from waiting.
It also found that Canadian meat that goes to U.S. markets gets more random-sample testing than meat marketed inside Canada.
But the additional testing does not improve food safety, according to Brent Cator, president and chief executive officer of Cardinal Meats of Brampton. If that were the case, then meat destined for the Canadian market ought to be subjected to an equal amount of random sampling and testing.
“The answer is prevention at farm and harvested interventions that lead to carcass pasteurization,” Cator said.
He noted that further processors, such as his company, want carcass pasteurization.
That standard remains elusive. Irradiation is often mentioned as a way to achieve it, but it doesn’t work as well as many believe, Meatingplace says.
Ironically, Cardinal Meats was involved in its own beef recall less than a month after XL Foods finally got back into production. The source of the pathogenic bacteria has not yet been identified and/or revealed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Another big difference between the U.S. and Canada is the extra power the CFIA holds to force and supervise a recall, says Meatingplace.
It also raised questions about destroying so much of the recalled beef and the CFIA requirement that beef that was cooked undergo another round of sampling and testing for E. coli 0157:H7.
Meatingplace indicates that was overkill because high-temperature, long-term cooking is well known to kill harmful bacteria.
It reports that XL ended up dumping one million pounds of beef into a landfill, and rendering or cooking 12 million pounds. It recalled 2.5 million pounds from the United States.
Canadian news reports indicate the first time E. coli was identified in XL beef products was at the border where U.S. inspectors took a sample. Meatingplace says that on the same day – Sept. 4 – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found E. coli 0157:H7 on meat in the packing plant.
Canadian news reports indicated the CFIA confirmation of E. coli contamination came days, if not more than a week, later.
While XL turned over operations to JBS to get back into production, Meatingplace notes that JBS had its own food-safety challenges. In 2010 it had a high-volume recall of beef from its plant at Greeley, Colorado. JBS has an option to buy XL for $100 million, an option Meatingplace expects JBS to exercise.
“The reality is that
E. coli can and will
no matter who is in charge."
“The reality is that E. coli can and will get through, no matter who is in charge,” says the magazine.
“As such, industry is left to make the best of a risky business while trying to make products as safe as possible with the available technologies.”
In another article in the magazine, it says some retailers are spraying antibacterial agents in the tray packs for retail marketing before they put the meat cuts into the packs for sealing.
It’s not clear how that practice squares with consumer concerns about the use of antibiotics on farms.