Sep 26, 2012 by Lee Hart

Silence isn’t golden when it comes to meat safety

I feel badly for XL Foods for this major meat recall. I am
sure they never intend to produce products that may be suspect in making people
sick.  But they sure have dropped
the ball from a PR standpoint when it comes to “dealing” with this latest and
expanding alarm over a wide range of meats possibly tainted with e-coli.

I read in today’s Calgary paper “ despite repeated phone
calls and messages over the past three days, officials with XL have not
responded to Herald queries…” 
That’s not what I consider a ringing example of being up front, honest
and eager to re-establish public confidence in your products.

I hate to keep dragging out this old example, but I am still
impressed with how Maple Leaf Foods dealt with that listeria outbreak and
tainted food crisis in 2008. President and CEO Michael McCain went before the
cameras and media on an on-going basis, which showed the company was
sincere,  concerned, and wanted to
fix the problem.

I don’t know about XL, but it is not helping the Canadian
beef industry, for the company just to be silent on the whole issue. XL should
be pro-active and trying to allay any consumer fears they may have generally
about Canada’s meat supply. They should be out there with a what-happened-and-what-we-are-doing-about-it
message. Smart retailers should be putting signs on the front doors of their
stores “We do NOT carry XL meat products.”  If XL isn’t sure how to approach it, there are communications
companies that deal with crisis management.

You can’t go to a beef industry event without at least one speaker and usually
several declaring that Canada produces safe, high quality beef. And there are
also lots of speakers talking about the need to connect with the consumers,
meet consumer needs, listening to consumers, the importance of producing safe, high quality food, the
importance of being environmentally responsible, and good stewards of the land,
etc. etc. – yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

Yet along comes an issue, which may not rattle public
confidence in beef to the core, but I am sure it makes a lot of people wonder
about “is there a problem with the burger I have in the freezer”, or “is there
anything wrong with that steak I bought.” Here’s the United States telling
Canada it doesn’t want meat from that plant in the country.

And amid all this XL is silent.

Personally, I am not particularly alarmed about the quality
or safety of Canadian beef, but what the heck, this might be a good night to
have chicken.

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.
Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]




Lee Hart

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is a long-time farm writer, and honorary member of the Alberta Institute of Agrologists, with many observations on the agriculture industry, who never hesitates to admit he is wrong (should that ever happen.)

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