XL Foods – a Few Facts on the Biggest Food Recall in Canadian History

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacteria found in bowels of warm-blooded animals.  If it contaminates food, it can cause serious illness or death;
  • E. coli in XL meats first spotted by US authorities at the border on September 3;
  • Canada did not alert the public or recall beef products from XL until September 16th;
  • Up to 5,000 animals slaughtered per day;
  • 2,200 employees;
  • 40% of all the beef produced in Canada is slaughtered at the XL plant;
  • 46 inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) work on two shifts.  Not all inspectors are on the carcass line. Some are veterinarian inspectors who check the animals prior to slaughter.  Even if they were all on the line, each inspector would have to assure safety monitoring three animal kills per minute;
  • Each worker must slice meat on between 300-320 carcasses per hour.  The United Food and Commercial Workers Union says the speed and volume of the line force workers to skip steps, like cleaning knives between each carcass;
  • The union alleges workers were forced to work faster than humanly possible – if safety steps were to be assured. Increasingly, the workers are from the temporary foreign workers programme. Under its terms, they can only work for the company that contracted for them. Earning $17 dollars/hour, most were afraid to complain of violations for fear of being fired and deported from Canada.