Welcome to DrPHealth

Please leave comments and stimulate dialogue. For those wanting a bit more privacy or information, email drphealth@gmail.com. Comments will be posted unless they promote specific products or services, or contain inappropriate material or wording. Twitter @drphealth.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Where's the Beef? The tainted meat is a public health scandal

The massive beef recall in Alberta is on one hand unfortunate, on the other hand likely was predictable and preventable.

A visit to a slaughterhouse is not a Sunday picnic.  Employee turnover amidst the blood, guts and odours is very high and most staff are minimally trained for the importance of their jobs.  Wages are low, and in the Brooks XL meats facility employees are sometimes bussed 1-2 hours each way to get to the operation as housing in the area is not affordable. Many workers in abbatoirs and slaughterhouses contract intestinal infections from their work in their first weeks of employment, a time when taken sick leave is not seen as an option.  

Federal meat inspection is provided by CFIA, who in the last round of the Harper government’s budgetary cuts saw very significant reductions in field staff.   Just a few weeks ago the CEO of CFIA left “under mysterious circumstances” with few details released.

One might recall in the wake of the Listeria outbreak from Maple Foods, the CEO publicly apologizing.  Notable in their absence are the directors of XL foods.  Moreover it is the premier of the province that is the goat put forth to steadfastly defend Alberta beef in the wake of the US border closure to beef from the facility. A statement to the well known shady nature of the management of XL foods. 

E. Coli O157:H7 rates in large food animals have a similar seasonal incidence as in humans, a definite peak in the summer years.  The human illness often blamed on inadequate BBQing with minimal evidence that is the culprit. The point being that summer is the time that animals arriving for slaughter should be expected to have the highest carriage rates. 

Alberta is home to about 5.5 million cattle waiting their turn to be loaded into stock trucks, often in the cloak of night, transported to the slaughterhouse, corralled in line to the kill zone where a nail is ‘humanely’ riveted causes as painless a death as possible. With winter approaching and reduced feedstocks available, livestock operators try to get as many cattle to market as possible to reduce wintering costs. 

Anyone looking to brew a perfect storm for an E. Coli outbreak need look no further than a system that is efficiently designed to ensure beef, pork and poultry make it to Canadian plates with minimal publicity, minimal cost and minimal illness.  The Canadian food safety system was for the most part excellent and a source of international pride.  It has taken its share of hits, in part because the system identifies and publically reports its problems.   

The XL meats situation however was a forecast-able storm and went unscathed for too long.  The question is whether lessons will be learned on the prevention of similar situations through recognizing the public good of the food supply chain? or will this just be another Harper search for a scapegoat to sacrifice? 

Follow the debates and discussion on the Safe food for Canadians Act that is currently working its way through the house. It is currently through second reading and before senate committees.     No doubt the interest in the matter will change in the weeks ahead. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/acts-and-regulations/initiatives/sfca/eng/1338796071420/1338796152395  

No comments:

Post a Comment