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Canada meat plant operations halted on food safety concerns

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian food inspectors on Friday said they have suspended operations at a meat-processing plant in Edmonton, Alberta, for failing to properly track its deliveries after detecting the Listeria bacteria on an employee.

The incident comes just a month after a major health scare in Canada over tainted beef at another meat plant in the province.

Capital Packers Inc detected the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes -- which can cause fever, nausea and even meningitis in infected people -- on a worker's sleeve and on Monday notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

While such a finding is routine and there is no evidence that any food was contaminated, the CFIA suspended the company's license as a precautionary measure after finding it was unable to properly track the whereabouts of its products.

"The company's ability to understand the distribution of their products is in question and is an element of concern for us, hence the license suspension," Paul Mayers, associate vice-president of programs at the CFIA, told reporters on a teleconference.

Initially, the company told the CFIA that the potentially affected products were under its control. The CFIA's own investigation determined that they may in fact have been delivered to several provinces, Mayers said.

In September, the XL Foods meat plant in Alberta was shut down for about a month after it produced millions of pounds of beef tainted with the E. coli bacteria that sickened at least 16 people in Canada.

Capital Packers makes bacon, sausages, fresh meats and other products and sells them in Western Canada and the Northwest Territories, according to its Web site.

The company has voluntary recalled ham sausages under the brand names Capital and Compliments.

"The ham sausage recall that is underway is not directly related to the suspension, however we are voluntarily recalling this product because there was found to be a positive for listeria on an employee sleeve working on a packaging equipment line," the company said in a statement.

"We are working closely with the CFIA to rectify this situation in a timely manner."

CFIA officials said the plant would be closed until they were satisfied Capital Packers has improved its record-keeping and that additional products could be added to the recall as the investigation continues.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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