A Canadian meat packer at the centre of the latest listeria monocytogenes recall has had its licence suspended by food safety officials.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said an investigation into Capital Packers, in Edmonton, Alberta, had revealed the plant was not carrying out adequate food safety controls and had failed to implement corrective action recommended by CFIA inspectors. Its licence to operate was therefore suspended on 22 November.
Capital Packers first ran into trouble in October, when a CFIA inspector identified deficiencies in the plant’s recall procedures. The plant was informed of the steps that needed to be taken, but a follow-up investigation revealed it had failed to rectify the situation.
The situation was compounded when a sample from the sleeve of an employee at the plant tested positive for listeria monocytogenes during routine testing. Capital Packers initially advised the CFIA that product from the contaminated line had not been distributed, but a CFIA investigation revealed the products were not under the control of the plant and might have been distributed.
Although no product has so far tested positive for listeria, Capital Packers issued a voluntary recall of two branded sausage products on 22 November and the CFIA issued a health hazard alert. The CFIA said it was conducting an investigation to determine the source of the listeria contamination and confirm that no other products were affected. It added that the plant’s operating licence would not be returned until inspectors were satisfied it could produce safe food.
“Licence suspensions have a major impact on business operations, but food safety cannot and will not be compromised,” said a CFIA statement. “Capital Packers will not be able to resume operations until it has fully implemented the necessary corrective actions and the CFIA is fully confident in the plant’s capacity to effectively manage food safety risks.”
A statement from Capital Packers said: “In the contents of the suspension letter, handed to us by CFIA at 4:30pm Thursday, 22 November 2012, our licence was suspended due to an ineffective recall program.
“The ham sausage recall that is under way is not directly related to the suspension. However, we are voluntarily recalling this product because there was found to be a positive for listeria on an employee’s sleeve working on a packaging equipment line. So we felt it was important to recall this product to ensure food safety in the marketplace.
“We are working closely with the CFIA to rectify this situation in a timely manner.”