The second largest slaughterhouse in Canada, XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta had some production issues in late August which created an environment where E. coli could grow. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) discovered the bacteria in XL Foods’ beef during routine testing on Sept. 4, 2012. This triggered the largest meat recall in Canadian history resulting in over 1800 steaks, ground beef products and whole cuts to be pulled from shelves at Costco, Safeway and Walmart as well as in American grocery stores. The recall is still ongoing and the CFIA updates their website regularly to keep people in the know.
Some Context for You…
E.coli is a bacterium of which there are several different strains, but the one found in XL Foods’ beef can be fatal. Luckily there have been no reports of deaths to date. This is a different bacterium than was found in Maple Leaf Foods deli meats back in 2008 that killed 23 people. That was Listeria.
Bacteria like E. coli and Listeria can infect non-meat products too. In the past decade, food producers have recalled spinach, cantaloupe, mushrooms, onions, peas and greens. In fact, just Friday (Oct. 5, 2012) CFIA issued a warning that Indiana brand popcorn may contain Listeria.
Despite the frequency of food recalls, this massive tainted beef recall has many Canadian’s questioning their food safety.
Go vegetarian, obviously. Okay, okay that’s too simple but it’s situations like this that push borderline vegetarians over the edge.
If committing whole-hog to a vegetarian lifestyle isn’t an option, consider becoming a flexitarian – none of the commitment but plenty of the benefits of being vegetarian.
If a life with less meat seems bleak to you, then change how you buy meat. Get to know a local butcher (hint, you can find one using our city guides). A good community butcher will not only know where the meat comes from, but will know the conditions of the farm, can attest to the animals being hormone and steroid-free, and will tell you when it was slaughtered and when he or she butchered the meat. Butchers are good people to know.
As for the other bacteria that sneak into non-meat foods, get to know the people who grow your food and you’ll reduce the chances of coming into contact with tainted produce. Many of the past issues came from processing plants that handle large volumes of produce where bacteria can spread. Stick to the local farmer’s market and you’ll know that the fruits and veggies are fresh and less likely to be contaminated.
Now, can we interest anyone in a veggie burger?