Processing Magazine

Union leader says XL Foods refused to address food safety issues prior to E. coli outbreak

October 11, 2012

ALBERTA, Canada — The leader of the union representing workers at the XL Foods beef processing plant says there is a desperate need for an improved culture of food safety at the plant, which was recently shut down due to E. coli contamination.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Doug O''Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, told reporters that the union has repeatedly asked XL Foods for changes that would improve food safety at their Lakeside plant in Brooks.

"Workers at XL Foods in Brooks want to be part of the solution," says O''Halloran. "They''re going to be back at work in a few days, but nothing has been done to address the issues that led to this problem."

RELATED: USDA issues public health alert for Canadian XL Foods beef

O’Halloran added that the union has been raising concerns about line speed, training for all workers especially temporary foreign workers and the need for whistleblower protection for years.

"The line speed is too fast on normal days," O''Halloran said. "Higher speeds in processing carcasses have led to shorter times to ensure equipment and meat is clean. On extraordinary days, when workers are missing from work, the line speed needs to be adjusted downward."