The United States has banned exports from XL Foods following an outbreak of E. coli-related illnesses in Canada that could stem from the plant. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded the recall several times since the initial recall, and an inspection from the CFIA found sampling issues with the plant's laboratory.

Gerry Ritz, Canada's federal agriculture minister vigorously defended the country’s meat inspection system Tuesday in the wake of news that U.S. authorities have halted exports after intercapting several shipments at the border, reports the Calgary Herald. Ritz said he was hopeful his American counterpart will lift the ban on product from the Brooks facility of XL Foods Inc. in a few days now that corrective action has been taken.

the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service quietly asked Canada to remove the plant from its list of approved export establishments nearly two weeks ago.

CFIA officials confirmed their counterparts took the action on Sept. 13 in the wake of two test results a day earlier that found E. coli 0157 in trimmings destined for ground beef products that U.S inspectors had sampled at the international crossing.

The American agency had detected another contaminated shipment at the border on Sept. 3 and quickly told CFIA and XL, but 12 more days would go by before the agency issued a health alert and the company began a voluntary recall.

The CFIA reviewed operations at the plant and noted minor health issues on the killing floor. The laboratory, however, had been using the N-60 testing protocol (taking 60 samples from a 2,000-pound lot). The lab did not increase its testing after a spike of product testing positive in August. Authorities believe that the company got false negatives on beef that was later found to be contaminated.

Canadian authorities are investigating eight illnesses that could be related to the beef.

Source: Calgary Herald