A Pitt Meadows meat company pleaded guilty Monday in New Westminster Supreme Court to unlawfully selling tainted food and was fined $125,000.
Pitt Meadows Meats, also known as the numbered company 0685838 B.C. Ltd., entered the plea on a charge of unlawfully selling food unfit for human consumption.
The charges, under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, follow a lengthy investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which was tipped off by a former employee of the company that a batch of beef had tested positive for a deadly bacteria in September 2010, and was not reported.
More than 600 subsequent tests were conducted by CFIA of meat products produced by Pitt Meadows Meats, all of which turned up negative. However, none of the tainted meat was available for testing as it had already been distributed.
According to the CFIA, the plant destroyed some of the meat prior to the recall, while the majority was sold to pet food manufacturers and only a “few kilograms” of the tainted meat were sold in stores for human consumption.
The halal meat packing plant on Ford Road and its subsidiaries, Fraser Valley Meat Supplies and Meadows Valley Meats, were initially facing 11 counts of selling food unfit for human consumption.
But 10 of the charges were stayed and a fine imposed on the 11th one.
Former employee Dan Land said he followed procedures at the plant. He was in charge of food safety and said he had no opportunity to contaminate daily sampling of meat because he never actually touched the product.
“I never, in any way shape or form, ever contaminated anything. I wouldn’t even dream of it.”
He first heard of the test results after getting a call from a laboratory in Richmond that did the testing. Land said he then called managers about the results and was told they’d look after it.
“I thought for sure they would tell CFIA, but they didn’t do anything.”
A week or two later, Land was fired after being told he didn’t get along with co-workers.
“I really thought that they told them [the CFIA]. Shortly after he was fired, he contacted CFIA and told them of the test results.
“I’m so glad it’s over. It’s been five years,” he said.
Following the conviction Monday, Pitt Meadows Meats issued an apology, “for not fully following government procedures in 2010. We accept the decision of the court and pledge to do better.”
The company said it’s already taken several steps, such as implementing in 2012 a computer tracing system that allows quick response time and tracking of products.
The meat facility also has a full-time safety coordinator and does random testing, which is verified by a third party.
“This is also more than government regulations require.”