A former meat plant worker who detected E. coli at a B.C. facility says the same concerns he raised two years ago are still plaguing Canada’s food safety system. Daniel Land, who worked as a quality assurance inspector for Pitt Meadows Meats, is slamming the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for not reacting quickly enough to the E.coli findings in early September.
Two years ago Land was in charge of testing meat for E. coli. He says when he received a positive test result, he immediately told his bosses. The company did not notify CFIA, despite the regulations requiring them to do so. The company fired Land and tells CTV it was because of his inability to get along with co-workers.
“I was so disgusted with what happened when I specifically told them to pull the stuff of the shelves,” says Land. “I told the owner and I told the head person for CFIA, it took us seven days to pull it off the shelves.”
Land’s allegations launched a CFIA investigation that resulted in a report being sent to federal Crown. No charges have been laid.
The company, which is now Meadow Valley Meats, maintains it did not contact CFIA because it was suspicious of how Land handled the sample. It did however issue an apology to its customers and CFIA for not reporting the results. Subsequent testing in the plant showed no sign of E. coli.
Land is also outraged with the delay in the XL recall.
“They knew they had a problem September 4th, why did it take them 12 days to pull it off the shelves?” asks Land.
CFIA says the company failed to provide crucial information in a timely manner but that legislation in the works will require them to provide information quickly.
Critics say the delay in recalling products is just another sign of the government is not policing the industry closely enough. Industry insiders say CFIA inspectors focus on the slaughtering process and leave the company responsible for sanitation. Government inspectors oversee the cleaning of the plant by checking the company documentation.
“We’re self-regulated. You take responsibility for quality control,” says Land. He adds letting the industry self monitor can be dangerous when there is pressure to pump up production and profits.
“The sanitation issue is what causes the E. coli problem. How much industry self regulation and CFIA oversight should be allowed to evolve is a central part of the debate,” says Bob Kingston of the Agriculture Union.