Cardinal Meats experienced its first recall in 2007. The details surrounding the recall were typical for a burger processor: We unknowingly purchased boneless beef from a CFIA approved supplier – this meat was contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. Consequently we ground and formed this material into a burger that was purchased by a consumer who did not prepare it properly.
Although there was nothing exceptional about our recall, it was an extremely stressful experience for our team. As the CFIA brought the recall to its conclusion, I was happy to report to Ralph Cator, the owner of Cardinal at that time, that the recall was finally over - to which Ralph gingerly replied yes, “until the next time...”
Ralph’s comments in 2007 have stuck with me over the years. As much as I wanted to celebrate and go to bed that night with the feeling my troubles were over, I could not.
At that moment I became very aware that although our industry was making great strides in food safety that illusive pathogen was still out there. I know Ralph was right in his comment to me - that fact is further confirmed each time I tour the best slaughter establishments in the world, and their teams confirm they consistently find positives in their product each week. If that fact alone does not keep you awake as a processor consider this: these positives are being run on the same line as the many “negative” combos’ that eventually are shipped to us. The only thing that stands between a processor and a recall is a sampling plan (N60) - one that is different from slaughter to slaughter, consistently not followed and executed poorly.
As the CFIA draws to a close on our most recent recall I feel stronger in my conviction that unless we can continue to move our care/food safety processes forward from farm to combo by producing a pasteurized carcass that is subjected to rigorous testing and labeled “pasteurized”, Ralph’s prophetic words will continue to haunt me.
Until the next time...