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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dozen people ill after eating beef linked to now-closed Alberta processing plant

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 14/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Twelve people in four provinces have been infected by E.coli bacteria linked to an Alberta beef processing plant at the center of a massive tainted meat recall.
    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ordered the emergency closing of the XL Foods plant in Brooks.
   That followed the discovery of the bacteria last month in tests by U.S. officials on meat being shipped across the border.
   U.S. authorities then stopped accepting beef shipments and a recall began that has now expanded to 1,800 products shipped within Canada, to the U.S. and 20 countries.
   The plant with 2,000 workers handles about 35 percent of Canada’s beef processing operations.
   It has been allowed to resume limited operations under supervision but no products will leave XL at this time.
   Harpreet Kochhar, agency executive director, said the plant has been cleaned and sanitized as an investigation continues into “improvements made to all previously addressed deficiencies.”
   XL chief executive officer Brian Nilsson is denying claims by the United Food and Commercial Workers that the fast pace of slaughter operations forces workers to take shortcuts with cleanliness.


   Ontario school teacher unions are launching legal action against the provincial government over a bill that freezes wages for two years and bans the right to strike.
   They say the bill is unconstitutional as it strips unions of the right to bargain collectively and sets a dangerous precedent for similar legislation in the public sector.
   Education Minister Laurel Broten said the bill didn’t take away the right to reach a settlement before a deadline set by the government to pass the legislation.
   The Liberal government also plans to freeze the wages of 481,000 workers at hospitals, colleges, provincial agencies and government services to battle a $14.8-billion deficit without layoffs or cutting services.


   News in brief:
   - An opinion poll suggests that Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, would receive substantial support should he seek to become Canada’s next leader. A Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey found his support peaked at 48 percent in Atlantic Canada and was 36 percent nationally. Trudeau, 40, will seek the leadership of the Liberal party next year and “holds the best prospect for a revival” of the party, said pollster Allan Gregg.
   - A former Walmart worker in Chatham, Ontario has been awarded $1.46 million in a lawsuit against the retail giant. Meredith Boucher, 42, sued the company, claiming the store manager subjected her to verbal abuse and humiliation. An attorney for Walmart said the company will appeal the settlement.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is slightly lower at 1.0213 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 97.91 cents Canadian before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,232 points and the TSX Venture index 1,296 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Oct. 10) 8, 22, 37, 40, 41 and 44; bonus 4. (Oct. 6) 20, 24, 27, 40, 44 and 45; bonus 35. Lotto Max: (Oct. 5) 1, 12, 23, 27, 30, 31 and 37; bonus 33.


   Regional briefs:
   - Prosecutors in Vancouver are seeking tougher jail sentences for those convicted of taking part in last year’s Stanley Cup riot that caused $4 million damage. The Crown attorney is appealing the sentences of two people who received 60 and 90 days in jail to be served on weekends, instead of the six months and nine months being sought. Police have arrested many of 275 suspected rioters.
   - The push to locate a billion-dollar casino complex in Toronto continues although city councilors are divided on the issue. Bill Rutsey of the Canadian Gaming Association said a casino would create 6,000 construction jobs, support up to 12,000 permanent jobs and attract tourism from around the world. There are currently numerous slots casinos around the city.
   - Kellogg Canada is recalling most sizes of Mini-Wheats brown sugar and original frosted cereals after pieces of metal were found in the some of the packages. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the national recall involves products with the best-before dates between April 1 and July 29, 2013. No injuries were reported.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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