Beef plant back on USDA’s nice list

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XL Foods’ beleaguered beef packing plant at Brooks, Alta. has been approved to resume shipping beef to the United States.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has re-listed Establishment 38, XL’s Lakeside plant, allowing XL to resume exports to the U.S. "effective immediately."

The plant was de-listed for export to the U.S. in September. An estimated 1.1 million pounds of beef trim and 1.4 million pounds of primal and sub-primal beef cuts exported to the U.S. were subject to recall after samples of beef from the plant tested positive for E. coli O157 bacteria.

The re-listing, CFIA said, is "demonstrative of (XL’s) renewed commitment and ability to meet its high food standards."

CFIA suspended the plant’s federal operating license in September in the wake of massive recalls of beef in both the U.S. and Canada. Beef from the plant has been linked to 18 cases of illness as of Nov. 14, in Canada alone.

The plant resumed operations in October following "corrective actions" under the management of JBS USA, the U.S. arm of the Brazilian meat packing giant, whose agreement with XL to manage the plant includes an as-yet-unexercised option to buy the facility and certain other XL operations.

CFIA continues to run "enhanced oversight activities" at Lakeside to "ensure the company’s long-term and preventive measures continue effective implementation."

"The resumption of full operations at Establishment 38, along with JBS’s recent appointment of (Canadian beef industry consultant) Willie Van Solkema to head their Canadian operations, are positive signals for the industry," Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Martin Unrau said in a release Saturday.

"This is very good news for Alberta, and Canadian beef producers, the employees of the plant, the owners and operators of XL Foods Inc., and for the community of Brooks," provincial Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said Saturday in a separate release. "It has been a long and difficult process. However, we all will agree that ensuring safe food products remains the utmost importance."

Related stories:
Meat packer JBS names chief for Canadian operations, Dec. 6, 2012
Cattle prices recover after XL’s reopening, Dec. 6, 2012
JBS to manage XL beef plant, with option to buy, Oct. 18, 2012