Meat plants pass U.S. safety audit but receive only ‘adequate’ rating

From 2012 | Many concerns related to the XL Foods recall

A U.S. audit rated Canadian meat plants as only “adequate” but did not affect trade patterns or border inspections.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released its report of a food safety review it conducted between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2, 2012.

It was part of a routine auditing process, said Richard Arsenault, director of meat programs at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Canadian auditors did a similar review of American meat plants in January 2013, and their report is expected soon.

“The audit report we will have coming out from the U.S. will point to some areas that probably can be done better as well,” Arsenault said.

The Canadian Meat Council, which represents federally inspected facilities, said in an email that international audits are common among trading partners.

South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Honduras and Costa Rica also audited and approved Canadian plants in 2013.

The U.S. audit of Canadian plants was planned well in advance of the problems at XL Foods in Brooks, Alta., which were noted in the report, said Arsenault.

“The audit wasn’t precipitated as a result of that. It was a coincidence,” he said.

However, the added check helped the agency verify the changes that were made to bring the plant back into production.

Problems with E. coli contamination led to the Brooks plant closure from September to December 2012. The problems caused the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

The plant has since been purchased by JBS Canada.

The audits and recommendations from a federal review panel on the XL Foods crisis prompted the CFIA to launch supervisor training schools as well as an inspection verification office to act as an independent overview to verify that work is being properly done.

In addition, the federal government has passed new legislation under the Safe Food for Canadians Act that requires greater controls for E. coli and bacterial testing and more inspections of Canadian meat processing facilities.

The most recent U.S. audit evaluated two red meat slaughter establishments, four plants producing ready-to-eat meat and one egg processing facility.

Food safety inspection service staff also visited five government offices, CFIA headquarters and two private laboratories conducting microbiological and chemical residue testing.

The final report said Canada’s performance was adequate but there is need for improvement in oversight of plant hazard analysis critical control point plans, sanitation and humane animal handling.

Most of the concerns stemmed from observations at the former XL plant, where there were concerns over sanitation as well as equipment and building maintenance.

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