JBS USA has announced that it will take over management of the XL Foods facility in Brooks, Alberta, that has been at the center of a massive beef recall in Canada and the United States. The agreement between JBS and XL Foods has an option for JBS to buy the Canadian and American operations of XL Foods, reports the Washington Post. Should the transaction be completed, JBS would pay $50 million in cash and $50 million in JBS SA shares, reports the Canadian Press.
"We know full well the commitment it takes to manage world-class operations that produce safe and nutritious products for consumers around the world," said Bill Rupp, president and chief operating officer of JBS USA. "We believe our experienced team will prove an invaluable asset in the management of XL Lakeside and we look forward to exploring our options to purchase XL assets in the near future."
Brian Nilsson, co-CEO of XL Foods, issued a brief news release addressing the announcement.
"This action is another positive step to relicensing the XL Lakeside beef plant in Brooks, Alta.," he said. "We welcome the assistance of JBS and their resources."
Fifteen people in four provinces have become ill from a strain of E. coli linked to the plant. The company had laid off its 2,200 employees last week, but called back 800 people to finish processing the carcasses that were in the facility as part of a Canadian Food Inspection Agency assessment of the plant. Those workers were laid off once the job was completed.
The agency said it expected to complete a report and make a recommendation to the federal government about the plant before the beginning of next week. The CFIA said its review in the coming days will include how well the XL Foods is handling E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation. It will also analyze the results of tests done on the meat by XL Foods and CFIA inspectors.
"Based on these observations and test results, the CFIA will prepare a report of its assessment and make a recommendation on next steps," the agency said in a release.
The recall expanded again this week to include brands sold under different product names in British Columbia and Alberta. The recall now stands at more than 1,800 products in 33 retail chains in Canada. Additionally, more than 1 million pounds of meat that had been exported to the United States were recalled by the USDA, though there have been no reported illnesses in the U.S.
Sources: AP, Canadian Press, Washington Post