Yeah for whistleblowers: Canadian meat processor expected to plead guilty in E. coli case

Pitt Meadows Meats is expected to plead guilty on Monday to at least one count of selling E. coli-tainted meat in 2010, CBC News has learned.

pitt-meadows-300One of British Columbia’s largest meat processing plants, which now calls itself Meadow Valley Meats, was charged with 11 counts under the Food and Drugs Act for selling meat unfit for human consumption after a former employee contacted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The coverup came to light when Daniel Land, who oversaw the plant’s quality assurance, later contacted CBC News, saying officials at Pitt Meadows Meats told him to keep quiet about the positive test result obtained on Sept. 9. 2010.

Land said a manager failed to report lab results that showed a sample of its product was contaminated with the deadly E. coli O157 strain.

Regulations require federally licensed plants to report such findings.

“They told me that this would be looked after — they would pull it off the shelf,” Land said from his home in Edmonton. “Shame on them. There was tainted meat in the marketplace and they did nothing.”

Land was fired and decided to report the incident to the CFIA, a month after the test came back positive for E. coli.

Federal inspectors shut down the plant for a month and issued a recall, warning consumers that Pitt Meadows beef and lamb products may be contaminated with E. coli and should not be consumed. 

All the products were halal, meaning the animals were slaughtered in accordance with Islamic tradition, and distributed in the Metro Vancouver area.

Pitt Meadows Meats repeatedly described Land as a disgruntled employee who may have tainted the beef himself. 

“That’s a lie. We had a positive E. coli O157,” Land said.

“The meat was out there in the industry. When CFIA got involved and pulled it off shelves the meat was already in stores and people had already consumed it.”