CFIA responds

A statement from the CFIA in response to reports about American audits of the XL Foods plant.

Contrary to assertions made today, Canadian food inspectors do look at the overall conditions of the plant such as how the carcasses are washed and the sanitation of equipment. Inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are in federally registered plants during all hours of operation. They verify that companies’ food safety controls are being effectively implemented. If at any time, inspectors observe issues that could threaten food safety, they take immediate action. Maintenance, equipment and general sanitation are all inspected at set frequencies. Our inspectors focus on making sure that the controls needed for safe food are being followed.

Secondly, as trading partners, Canada and the United States regularly audit each other’s food safety systems. The bottom line is that any issues identified in the course of these audits are addressed so that companies can continue to export their products. These audits only capture a snapshot of the situation in a plant, while CFIA inspectors have daily interaction with staff of federally registered meat establishments and make sure that preventive food safety plan is being implemented consistently and effectively.

As well, news reports have only used select information from certain audits and, as a result, paint a misleading picture of Canada’s overall food safety system. For example, reports have highlighted certain graphic examples from a U.S. audit report but failed to explain that the same report noted that the “CFIA and the establishment took immediate and appropriate corrective actions.”

Media reports also fail to mention that the XL Foods Inc. plant at the centre of the current E. coli issue has been audited by foreign countries ten times in the past three years. This plant has remained eligible to export its products up until just recently, which demonstrates foreign countries’ confidence in the facility and the CFIA’s oversight capacity.