I don’t know Alex Stanoprud but he writes in the Montreal Gazette this morning as someone who has worked for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency his entire career,
“I wanted to set the record straight on the recall of contaminated beef from the XL Foods plant in Alberta.
“Readers should know that E. coli contamination comes from excrement. When animals are slaughtered, there is excrement on their hides. (Go to any farm and you will see animals with some excrement on them.) If precautions are not taken during the removal of the hide in the slaughtering process, the excrement can be spread from the hide to the meat carcass.
“The article “Butchers troubled by recall” (Gazette, Oct. 2) quotes a Montreal restaurateur who says that because the beef he serves is kosher, it is less likely to have E. coli contamination. But kosher practices for slaughtering animals have nothing to do with how the hide of the animal is taken off. The same abattoir, same personnel, and same way of removing the hides and the intestinal tract, are involved.
“Comments by the head of the union that represents federal meat inspectors, suggesting more inspectors are needed to prevent such outbreaks, are misleading. Of course the union wants the government to hire more inspectors; that will put more revenue into the union coffers. But an increase in the number of inspectors does not mean more contamination will be discovered.
“Can an inspector identify a steak that has been contaminated? Absolutely not. Can the inspector take samples? Yes, but in all likelihood that one contaminated steak will be missed in his or her sample-taking. There is no way that even an army of inspectors can detect bacteria on a product once it gets there. Testing will give a snapshot of bacterial conditions, but it will not prevent food-borne illness unless you test every piece — and that’s impossible.
“The U.S. and Canadian inspection agencies are aware of this fact. That is why they have introduced a system called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points for meat plants. Under HACCP, inspectors use a document that contains a checklist of items that need to be evaluated in order to determine whether companies have, and use, all the necessary recourses to prevent food contamination. In the case of the XL Foods contamination, we can only assume that this system failed. Why? We can only speculate that neither the company nor the inspectors did their job.
So let me set the record straight. The problem has nothing to do with whether meat is fresh or frozen, whether it is organic, or whether it is kosher. And it not merely through more testing — and definitely not through the hiring of more inspectors — that we will prevent foodborne illness. The solution is for Ottawa to send qualified auditors into the plants on a regular basis, to see if the companies, and the inspectors, are doing their job.
All of a sudden there is an outbreak and a team of experts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is being sent to find the culprit. Maybe, instead of adding more inspectors and spending taxpayers’ dollars to no avail, this team should have a permanent place in the industry.”
Our version on this is available here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5
D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman
Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.