Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brains, the CFIA, XL Foods and Criminal Neglegence

WARNING: contains science

Earlier this week, a memo to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff, working at the XL Foods - Brooks facility, was obtained and published. This memo instructed inspectors to not only pay extra attention to meat for export (especially to Japan) but to ignore domestic product.



"ensure that non Japan eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD (other carcass defects) and minor ingesta, (Ignore them).”
Much has been made of the "minor ingesta". Essentially, this refers to fecal matter which is the contributing factor to E-coli contamination. It was E-coli contamination that caused the closure of the XL Foods facility at Brooks Alberta as well as the largest meat recall in Canadian history. 
E-coli is serious. E-coli makes people sick. However, not to diminish it's significance, E-coli bacteria can be killed by the heat of cooking and it is very rarely a fatal bug; typically only in those with already compromised systems.


Bossy's brain on Prions
What should have garnered a bit more attention is the part about "spinal cord/dura-mater". You see, it's in this matter that we find the prion... a nasty little misfolded protein that is responsible for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in cattle (mad cow disease) and new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans.





Your brain on Prions

This is particularly serious because vCJD is fatal with no known cure and, this is key, prions are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

Let me reiterate; this is a threat that cannot be mitigated by the most fastidious food handling techniques in any domestic or commercial kitchen. This is not a tummy bug, this is not a case of the poops, this is death.




The instructions contained in this CFIA memo are not about fiscal prudence, nor just careless or callous. These instruction are criminally negligent and I expect them to be treated as such, lest madness prevails. 

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