Recently we received that dreaded call that a child had become ill with E.coli O157:H7 poisoning, and although they couldn’t say for sure, they believed over the past couple of weeks the child may have eaten one of our burgers.
The illness occurred on the other side of the country from our operations, and because the consumer did not have the product or packaging the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) chose to cross the country collecting samples of all our burgers for testing. Although we didn’t understand the CFIA’s basis for testing, we of course did all we could to find samples and provide all of our HACCP records.
While the massive amount of testing moved forward, we had an opportunity to ask the investigating CFIA officers some questions about what had happened.
Of course one the most important questions was, “Did the family cook the burgers properly?” To our utter surprise this question was never asked! Why wouldn’t this question be asked? To our utter shock the response was that the CFIA would not expect that proper cooking instructions were followed, as you cannot expect that people would know how to properly cook a burger and, further, that it’s really up to the processor to ensure that the burger is safe.
What? What? We can’t expect the public to know how to follow cooking instructions, and consequently we as the processor had to ensure that all raw ground beef is 100 percent free of pathogens.
I am now 50 years old with 25 years in the business, and I fully understand that as an industry we must do all we can and go beyond to ensure all of our products are safe. We insist on it, the CFIA insists on it and the public insists on it. Why then can we not all, industry and consumer, insist that food is prepared safely?
It is definitely right to expect industry to make the safest product, and there are laws on the books for that reason. Is it not also right that those same law makers would insist the public does their part? It seems the lawmakers are being political rather than being lawmakers, as they remain silent.
All 500 tests were negative, yet the child had still become ill.
This 50 year old after all of these 25 years in this business cannot understand how in the eyes of this country’s lawmakers and educators two rights can make a wrong?