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Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspends licence of Alberta packing facility

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EDMONTON - The Alberta facility at the centre of a massive beef recall after an E. coli outbreak has had its operating licence temporarily suspended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The agency announced late Thursday that XL Foods Inc. in Brooks, Alta., won't be able to resume operations until it implements corrective actions required by the agency.

"The company took initial steps to ensure the safety of food being produced and at the time committed to additional steps to deal with all issues and prevent recurrence," the agency said in a news release.

"However, based on information provided by XL Foods Inc. on September 26, as well as through CFIA inspector oversight, the CFIA has determined that these deficiencies have not been completely corrected. To date, the company has not adequately implemented agreed upon corrective actions and has not presented acceptable plans to address longer-term issues."

The agency said all products currently at the plant are "under CFIA detention and control," and will be released only after being tested for E. coli.

The development came the same day the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended its public health alert about beef from the company's Lakeside plant to stores in 30 states, including retail giant Walmart.

The alert meant XL Foods would voluntarily recall beef products from these stores over concerns about possible E. coli contamination.

The U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) says it is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall, which before Thursday covered eight states.

XL Foods officials could not be reached for comment.

Along with Walmart, the retail chains involved in the XL Foods recall in the U.S. include Safeway, Kroger, Jay C, FoodsCo., Food4Less, Albertson's and Sam's Club.

Canada revoked the plant's permit to export beef to the U.S. on Sept. 13 at the request of the U.S.D.A.

Since Sept. 16, the CFIA has issued at least eight recall alerts for XL Foods ground beef products from its plant in Brooks over E. coli concerns.

Two Alberta companies supplied by XL Foods, Reddi Food Solutions Inc. and Freson Bros., were added to the recall list Thursday.

There are no reported cases of people getting sick from eating the ground beef.

The FSIS said in a news release issued Wednesday that whole cuts of beef were produced at the XL Foods plant on the same production dates as the suspected tainted ground beef.

The meat cuts were used by a U.S. manufacturer to make other food products, which have not been identified.

Also Wednesday, Alberta Health Service officials announced that four people in Edmonton got sick from E. coli after eating Kirkland brand strip loin steaks purchased at a Costco outlet in Edmonton.

The CFIA said the meat the steaks were made from came from the XL Foods plant, but health officials aren't sure if the E. coli was on the product or if it came from a metal meat tenderizing machine used at the Costco store.

The store has said it would no longer use the tenderizing machine.

E. coli O157:H7 is potentially deadly. Health officials say it can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

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