In its first statement since an outbreak of E. coli-related illnesses led to a large recall and plant shutdown, XL Foods announced it will increase food safety measures once it reopens. The Brooks, Alberta, facility was closed last week by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The recall has been expanded several times to include steaks, roasts and ground beef products in late August and early September and shipped through the United States and Canada. Beef from the plant has been linked to five illnesses in Canada.

"We believed XL Foods was a leader in the beef-processing industry with our food safety protocols, but we have now learned it was not enough," the company said in a release. "We take full responsibility for our plant operations and the food it produces, which is consumed by Canadians from coast to coast."

To improve safety, XL said it will use video cameras to audit plant processes, will expand washing the sides of beef with high-pressure hot water to eliminate E. coli contamination, and add staff to each shift to monitor sanitary procedures, reports Reuters.

XL Foods said when the plant does reopen, it will begin with limited production.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Thursday that the plant will not open until the head of CFIA assures him that it poses no health risk, and defended the government's handling of the crisis.

"We acted as quickly and responsibly as we possibly could," he said. Opposition legislators in Canada on Thursday called for Agriculture Minister Ritz to resign and pressed for a sweeping review of food safety systems by Canada's auditor general.

Source: Reuters