U.S. to boost testing of imported Canadian meat

The Canadians are jumping through so many hoops I’m not sure who can sort out this Topps Meat-Rancher’s Beef recall mess. Talk about bureaucratic.

On Oct. 26, 207, USDA, oh and CFIA, said that the multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to the Topps Meat Company has been traced back to a defunct Alberta company that apparently provided beef trim to Topps.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency PR notes that,

"The investigation is examining 45 cases of E. coli O157:H7 that were found in New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. These cases were previously reported from July to September, 2007. As a result of these cases, eleven people were hospitalized and one elderly individual died."

By Nov. 3, 2007, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, perhaps befuddled by the Canadian approach, said it would increase testing for salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 on meat and poultry products being imported from Canada after the Topps E. coli outbreak in several U.S. states was traced to beef from a Canadian company.

Dr. Richard Raymond said,

"Effective next week, FSIS will increase testing for Salmonella, Listeria Monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 and will require that shipments be held until testing is complete and products are confirmed negative for these pathogens. In addition, Canadian meat and poultry products will receive increased levels of re-inspection by FSIS to confirm they are eligible to enter commerce when presented at the U.S. border.

"FSIS will also immediately begin an audit of the Canadian food safety system that will focus on Ranchers Beef, Ltd. and will include other similar establishments that export beef to the U.S. Based on information provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), FSIS had previously identified this Canadian plant, which has ceased operations, as a likely source of the multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to the Topps Meat Company. As the result of that recall investigation, FSIS delisted Ranchers Beef, Ltd., Canadian establishment number 630, on October 20, 2007. No product from that firm has been eligible to enter into the U.S. since that date.

"The audit and stepped up actions at the border are being conducted because of concerns about testing practices at Ranchers Beef, Ltd. that were discovered as part of the ongoing investigation."

Ted Haney, president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation, told The Canadian Press on Saturday,

"This is very serious, at least in the short term,"  and that major beef processing plants have already made the decision to either not operate for the next couple of days or to reduce  processing volumes and not trade to the United States.

"This is excessive," he said of the audit, which he called an "excessive and capricious” protocol. It was done without consultation, it was done unilaterally, it doesn’t reflect the risk of E. coli O157:H7 in both Canada and the United States. … I think they have a born-at-home public relations issue that
they’re attempting to deal with. … Our industry has been struggling with costs of regulation in Canada; it’s struggled with a lack of market access in Asia …. This will be very, very disruptive, at least in the short term."

So instead of explaining what Canadian safeguards are in place, and the kind of testing that is currently undertaken at Canadian plants — the kinds of things the Americans are looking for —  Haney essentially says the big Canadian meat plants are going home and won’t play in the sandbox anymore and regulations are just too much.

Now tonight, a Canadian Press wire story says that even though the 40 sick people in the U.S. and the 45 people in Canada had the same E. coli O157:H7 genetic pattern, the product from the now defunct Rancher’s Beef Ltd. of Balzac, Alta. had not been definitively linked to the Canadian sick folks; just the Americans.

Here’s some questions: Why were the Americans — again — the first to notify Canadians about an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7? What’s with all the rhetoric? Who knew what when?

Test away, America.

This entry was posted in E. coli, Food Safety Policy and tagged , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time