Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Fresh ground beef is packed at a local butcher shop Monday, October 1, 2012 in Levis, Que.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Provincially licensed slaughterhouses in B.C. should consider adding tests for pathogens such as E. coli or listeria to their inspection regimes, says a food safety specialist at the University of British Columbia.

"This is a significant issue," Kevin Allen, an assistant professor of food microbiology at UBC, said in an interview Tuesday.

"We now have 10 or more cases of food-borne disease linked to [an outbreak at Alberta's XL Foods,]" he said. The outbreak has made several people ill and resulted in a massive recall of beef products.

Story continues below advertisement

"And E. coli 0157 is a very serious food-borne pathogen. The disease that can result from it is more consequential than [results from] most of the common food-borne pathogens that we associate with food poisoning, if you will."

Slaughterhouses in B.C. include federally licensed plants as well as several classes of facilities licensed by the province.

B.C. does not currently test for pathogens such as E. coli or listeria at provincially regulated plants unless there is a suspicion of contamination. E. coli testing is part of routine testing at federal plants.

The biggest risk of contamination from pathogens such as E. coli comes during processing, not slaughtering, a spokeswoman for B.C.'s Health Ministry – which currently regulates slaughterhouses in the province – said Tuesday in an e-mail.

Health Canada does not recommend routine testing for E. coli as a public-health measure and research indicates that "routine pathogen testing of carcasses at the slaughter plant is not considered an effective food safety intervention," according to the provincial spokeswoman.

That said, the province is "reviewing the potential applicability of testing in our new meat inspection system."

Since the 1980s, B.C. has hired the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to provide meat inspection services in accordance with B.C. guidelines for provincially licensed slaughter plants. Between now and the end of next year, however, the CFIA is shifting out of that contract role in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Story continues below advertisement

And consumers who believe their meat is safer because it comes from a small producer who can trace a given cow back to its corral may be operating with a false sense of security, Mr. Allen said.

"When we talk about small [B.C.] producers and how safe they are, I get a little uncomfortable – because how do we know? We're not testing for E. coli 0157 so they are not held to the same standards we are seeing for the larger, federally licensed plants."

Specialty vendors say customers are willing to pay a premium for product that can be traced back to its producer.

"We deal with one or two heads [of cattle] a week and we know where they are from and we are grinding our own stuff," Karl Gregg, co-manager of Vancouver's Big Lou's Butcher Shop, said on Tuesday. "People are always curious about where the meat is coming from. It's definitely a knowledgeable crowd."

Big Lou's buys carcasses from a B.C. distributor that deals with a small number of producers in the province and breaks the carcasses down into products that include steaks and sausages.

But much of the beef sold to consumers in this province – recent industry estimates put the figure as high as 45 per cent – is processed by the massive XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta.

Story continues below advertisement

A recall of 1.5 million pounds of beef from the plant began September 16 with ground-beef products and has since expanded to include more items and an increasing number of retailers.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies