XL Foods, whose unsanitary, licence-violating practices over five days resulted in at least 15 people being poisoned with E. coli and sparked the largest red-meat recall in Canadian history, plans to be back in the slaughtering business by week’s end and shipping meat to stores again within 10 days.
By all appearances, there will be no fines, no sanctions, no extra scrutiny, no public inquiry.
Don’t we teach our children that, when you screw up, there are consequences?
Apparently that is not the case in Canadian agribusiness.
Instead, we are supposed to feel sorry for XL Foods because its infamous Establishment 58 was shut down for three weeks while it cleaned out the crap – literally, not just figuratively – and mopping-up operations were carried out across the country.
More than 2,000 food products were recalled in every province and territory. It is dumb luck, more than anything else, that so few people became seriously ill. (Remember that a much smaller E. coli outbreak in Germany last year killed 57 people.)
Gerry Ritz, the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, whose job – presumably – is to ensure the safety of the Canadian food supply, seems to think that we should prostrate ourselves before the cattle and beef industry.
On the weekend, when XL Foods laid off 2,000 workers – a gesture that was arguably aimed at putting political pressure on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to speed up its work so production could resume – Mr. Ritz took the bait whole hog.
“My thoughts are with the workers and the community affected,” he said.
The comments were eerily similar to those of the company’s co-CEO Brian Nilsson: “XL Foods is committed to the cattle industry, our employees, the city of Brooks and all affected by the idling of the Brooks facility.”
Clearly, the two protagonists in the sad affair can’t bring themselves to utter the c-word – consumer.
Shouldn’t consumer safety, not restarting the production line, be the paramount concern?