“One of British Columbia’s largest meat processing plants covered up lab results that showed a sample of its product was contaminated with the deadly E. coli O157 strain, CBC News has learned.
The coverup came to light when Daniel Land, who oversaw the plant’s quality assurance, contacted CBC News, saying officials at Pitt Meadows Meats Ltd. told him to keep quiet about the positive test result obtained on Sept. 9.
“[The plant manager] said this does not leave the room … and I don’t want nobody talking about this,” said Land. “He crumpled [the test finding] up and threw it into my garbage can.”
Plant officials, however, say they didn’t report the test results because they suspected the whistleblower was trying to sabotage the plant and questioned his general sampling procedures. Officials also say later tests were negative for E. coli, suggesting the public was never in danger.
“Under normal circumstances, the CFIA would have been informed immediately,” the plant said in a written statement. “But due to the suspect sample handling, the decision was made to handle this issue in house. If the second test result would have been positive, the CFIA would have been notified immediately.”
Regulations require federally licenced plants to report positive findings of E. coli O157 strain to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
CFIA inspection manager Joseph Beres called the plant’s coverup a serious breach of regulations, but said no evidence of E. coli was found on subsequent tests of the plant’s products.
Land said a second test verified the preliminary findings of E. coli and he told a federal inspector at the site. “She cried because she says, ‘They’re covering it up?’ And I says, ‘Yes.’ And she said, ‘Same old story,'” said Land….”