Olymel won’t be affected by XL foods recall

File: Meat products are displayed at a grocery store.

Pork and poultry processor Olymel L.P. won’t be affected by the massive XL Foods recall because it follows safety rules “very, very, very strictly,” said company spokesperson Richard Vigneault.

Vigneault said the company, which employs about 500 people at a Brampton plant and sales office on Orenda Road, already works closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal regulator.

“When you’re in this business you have no choice,” he said, adding that the company goes well above the industry standard to ensure “that the food we produce is secure and every rule regarding inspection control is followed, very, very, very strictly.”

Olymel’s pork and chicken operations are under daily watch by the Food Inspection Agency — from the beginning of the chain to the packing and distribution, Vigneault said.

Vigneault repeatedly stressed the recall at Alberta-based XL Foods — the biggest meat recall in Canadian history — had no connection with his company. “There’s no impact so far on our productions, sales, operations, anything,” he said.

However, food safety expert Keith Warriner said Olymel and other meat producers will be impacted by government changes to the industry inspection system.

The University of Guelph professor and director of the Food Safety and Quality Assurance program said budget cuts and new regulations will affect all Canadian meat producers, including Olymel’s Brampton plant.

Warriner said fewer specialized federal inspectors will mean food producers like Olymel will have to do more self-policing of safety rules.

“The reality is, [the government] reduced the budget by $50 million . . . for CFIA inspections,” he said.

Warriner said the new government policy puts extra responsibility on the producers to make sure food is safe, rather than relying on inspectors to ensure they’re doing so.

“And so the reality is, companies and the industry are being much more reliant to self-police themselves,” he said.

Companies will be expected to hire third-party auditors to come into their plants once or twice a year and give reports. Warriner said while this has already been implemented in the U.S. due to $300 million in cuts, the outcome isn’t entirely positive.

“The reality is it means less inspections,” he said.

With the new act, there will be heavier fines (up to $5 million), and more power will be given to the inspectors. “So even if the inspectors suspect a little thing in your plant, they can demand anything,” he said. “They can shut you down. Essentially they’re going to play the hard cop of the business.”

Finally, Warriner clarified the poultry industry is also under more stress from salmonella rather than from e. coli, the bacteria that’s responsible for the XL Foods recall in Canada and the Unitd States.

Olymel’s Brampton location was bought in 1989. The sales office and processing facility currently employs 461 union members and 37 management staff.

The Quebec-based company said it employs more than 10,000 people across all its facilities in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, with a slaughter and processing capacity of 160,000 pigs and 1.7 million chickens a week.

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