NOBULL: Canada’s Meat Inspectors Told to Ignore Messy manure and ingestive material carcasses Not Bound for Japan

Canada’s Meat Inspectors Told to Ignore Messy Carcasses Not Bound for Japan

By Dan Flynn | November 30, 2012

Canada’s CTV News went public with a four-year-old memorandum from the troubled XL Foods beef plant that told meat inspectors to turn a blind eye to fecal and intestinal contamination on carcasses—except for the beef headed for Japan.

The memo issued to inspectors by a meat hygiene supervisor at the Brooks, Alberta beef plant said Japan is “our number 1 priority.” Issued on Sept. 12, 2008, the memo instructed meat inspectors stationed at the carcass inspection post to “ensure than non Japan carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/duramater, OCD (other carcass defects) and minor ingesta (ignore them).”

CTV obtained the memo from the union representing meat inspectors at the beef plant, now managed by the Greeley,CO-based JBS, USA. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the same stringent food safety standards were imposed on meat for both domestic consumption and for export.

CFIA said required inspection tasks are accomplished at different stations. “The memo referenced simply emphasized this division of labor,” CFIA said in a statement issued Thursday in reaction of the CTV report.

The agency said the union raised the issue three weeks ago and it was clarified with the meat inspectors. However, Agriculture Union President Bob Kingston took issue with the explanation that carcass contaminates could be detected further down the line. He said the memo referenced “the last inspection station on the line.”

Earlier this year, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to beef sickened 18 Canadians and was accompanied by the largest beef recall in the country’s history, causing XL Foods to give up management of the Alberta plant to JBS.

On CTV, Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, CFIA’s executive director for western operations, suggested that decontamination showers with antimicrobial sprays would also be a back-up step if something were missed. Inspectors said that works for non-visible bacteria, but not feces and intestinal splatter.

The XL recall was extended to include 2.5 million pounds shipped to the United States. It was then blocked from further export to the U.S. No illnesses associated with the Brooks plants have surfaced outside Canada.

© Food Safety News

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This revelation should not shock us in the least. In Oct 2002, a coalition of the Community Nutrition Institute, Government Accountability Project and Public Citizen sent a letter to then-USDA Sec Ann Veneman objecting to the contents of the now-infamous "Kansas Fecal Letter", which mandated essentially the same lack of inspection under sight from the Kansas Inspection team. One pertinent sentence from their letter was "The [FSIS] instructions repeatedly state that stopping the production line is to be avoided at all costs and that the inspectors themselves will be held responsible for lost production if the company challenges their action". End quote. A company challenge is automatic! Therefore, you inspectors wear blinders.

Ahh, the beauty of harmonized global deregulation of the large meat packers!

However, perhaps the most diabolical segment of this scenario is the fact that CFIA & FSIS are indifferent to the presence of visible fecal on carcasses because "carcass contaminates could be detected further down the line", as Dan Flynn states above. As stated above, CFIA’s ex director suggested that "decontamination showers with antimicrobial sprays would also be a back-up if something were missed". In layman terms, what do these agency admissions mean, and what are their implications?

To their credit, the largest plants have invested millions into the development & implementation of numerous technological systems which are intended to produce carcasses free of pathogens. This myriad of interventions is referred to as a "Multiple Hurdle Pathogen Intervention System", allegedly capable of consistently producing safe meat. Since the system has multiple pathogen hurdles, if one hurdle (aka an intervention) is overwhelmed and does not eliminate fecal contaminants, a subsequent downline hurdle (intervention) will remove the pathogen. Therefore, because of the laudable variety of interventions, neither CFIA nor FSIS are concerned with visible pathogens on carcasses (let alone all the invisible pathogens), concluding that subsequent interventions will successfully eliminate the pathogens. Interventions = panacea.

This is part & parcel of USDA-style, and WTO-style HACCP, which is allegedly "science based" because HACCP requires microbial analyses of meat products. The pre-HACCP style of meat inspection was organoleptically based, meaning that inspectors had to rely on the senses such as sight, smell, touch, etc. The senses can’t detect invisible bacteria, as we discovered in the 1993 Jack In The Box outbreak, leading to USDA-style HACCP, which really does NOT qualify as TRUE HACCP……..but that’s another story. Pre-HACCP meat inspection & production used very little microbial analyses.

FSIS and the largest slaughter plants have criticized pre-HACCP inspection as being a mere "poke and sniff" organoleptic system. Therefore, when FSIS threw out the senses (including common sense) in favor of occasional microbial sampling, the agency (& all global meat inspection regulatory agencies) threw the baby out with the bathwater. In retrospect, we should have kept the senses, and coupled it with microbial sampling. FSIS & WTO disagree, as does CFIA.

Now we are barraged with our much ballyhooed "Multiple Hurdle Pathogen Intervention Systems", which theoretically are the cat’s meow. However, our ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls reveal that the cat is merely purring, while asleep, as in gov deregulation, as in HIMP.

To fully comprehend FSIS’ & CFIA’s disregard for fecal-contaminated carcasses, read FSIS’ publication of "Compliance Guidelines for Establishments Sampling Beef Trimmings for Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) Organisms or Virulence Markers," May, 2012, a very recent publication. On pages 8 & 9, FSIS discusses "High Event Periods", or HEP’s. When microbial analyses of boneless beef trimmings reveal a high incidence of adverse lab positives for STEC’s, the lab results might reveal a breakdown in the slaughter process or food safety system, which is called a High Event Day. Worse than a bad hair day. Well, what % of lab positives does FSIS allow, before the results might be considered a "systemic" HEP. Hold onto your seats. From page 9, 2 (A): 7 or more E.coli O157:H7 (or STEC organisms or virulence markers) positive results out of 30 consecutive samples from production lots containing same-source materials." End quote. 7 out of 30 is 23.3% lab positives, after which FSIS "might" conclude a HEP has occurred. 6 out of 30, or "only" 20% positives, do not constitute a food safety problem for FSIS. For plants which test more than 60 samples daily, the % of positives required before FSIS might conclude to be a HEP ranges from 8.7% up to 13.1% On page 8 of the agency’s Compliance Guidelines, "FSIS selected a target of 5%.” End quote.

Therefore, since FSIS allows a plant to experience from 5% up to 13.1% fecal positives, one can readily understand why FSIS & CFIA are not concerned with visible fecal contamination of carcasses on a kill floor. Page 14 of the Guidelines includes the statement "Note that these recommendations are not regulatory requirements".

Somewhere, and I can’t find it, FSIS has stated that when a plant experiences a HEP, the agency’s District Office has 30 days to consider whether to implement enforcement actions against the plant. Lots of STEC-contaminated meat can be shipped into commerce in 30 days.

With these facts in mind, we can see why FSIS & CFIA are little concerned with fecal-contaminated carcasses on a kill floor.

Get used to it.

John Munsell