Canada's food safety officials have been forced to defend themselves over claims that they instructed inspectors to ignore safety controls for meat processed at XL Foods.
The allegations, made by Canadian television channel CTV earlier this week, were based on a memo sent to inspection staff at the Alberta plant by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in September 2008. The memo allegedly instructed inspectors to take extra care to remove fecal, intestinal and spinal cord materials from carcasses bound for Japan, but to ignore such contamination on domestic meat.
However, a CFIA statement said that the memo was only referring to inspection at one station, which was not the end of the line. It added that there was “zero tolerance” for contamination in Canadian plants, and safeguards throughout the production process.
“If at any time during inspection a potential risk to food safety is detected - regardless of the product’s destination - the line is stopped and product is held until the concern is resolved and product is in compliance,” it said.