E.Coli outbreak hits Alberta plant. Image Source: Rowett Institute

E.Coli outbreak hits Alberta plant. Image Source: Rowett Institute

Canadian food safety officials have suspended operations at XL Foods' Alberta meat processing plant and seized all produce there, following an e. coli outbreak.

XL Foods cannot operate the Alberta plant until further notice, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said late yesterday (27 September). An initial probe found "several deficiencies" in the firm's processing practices and these have not been properly corrected, the agency said.

Its decision to revoke XL Foods' licence at the plant marks an escalation in an e. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has already triggered recalls across Canada and the US. 

Earlier this month, Canada suspended the plant's licence to export beef to the US, after initially being alerted by authorities there to a positive e. coli reading in beef trimmings. Concerns have since spread to Canada.

XL Foods did go some way to improve checks at its Alberta plant but CFIA said it did not go far enough. "The company was unable to demonstrate through its documentation that it was consistently and effectively implementing its agreed upon control programme," said the watchdog.

"XL Foods Inc will not resume operations until it has demonstrated that it has fully implemented CFIA's required corrective actions," it added.

In a statement on its website, XL Foods said that it is "working closely with the CFIA to complete the recall and health authorities to address any health concerns that may arise".

Reports in Canada have said eight cases of sickness have been linked to the contamination.

This week, US retailer Safeway Inc joined the recall on ground beef products supplied by XL Foods. It is understood stores in 30 US states have recalled products. Retailers including Kroger and Wal-Mart Stores have been affected.