Ottawa – The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released its latest update on Canada’s most recent E. coli O157 outbreak that has been linked to frozen beef burgers.
As of yesterday, PHAC says there are a total of five cases of illness, two in Alberta and three in Ontario.
The illnesses have been linked to the strain of E. coli found in Butcher’s Choice Garlic Peppercorn Beef Burgers.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says the product was recalled from the marketplace between Dec. 12 and Dec. 15. The burgers are sold at Loblaws stores across Canada.
Two other beef products, Cardinal Select brand Prime Rib Beef Burgers and Butcher’s Choice Hickory Barbecue Beef Burgers, have also been recalled but they haven’t been linked to any illnesses.
For more on the recalled products, click here.
The CFIA also issued a statement and says the company that produced the recalled burgers, Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., is a processing facility that uses ingredients from a range of suppliers.
The CFIA is investigating these ingredients through three lines of inquiry: spices, domestic beef ingredients and imported beef ingredients. The imported beef ingredients are from Australia and New Zealand, and the CFIA is following up with these countries to review testing information and determine if any potentially linked illnesses have been reported.
In its investigation of spices and domestic beef ingredient suppliers, the CFIA is reviewing production records, inspection reports and test results to identify any indicators of elevated E. coli risk for the ingredients used to make the recalled burgers. Where samples are available, testing is underway.
If the CFIA’s investigation identifies potentially contaminated ingredients, additional products may be recalled.
The CFIA also wanted to clarify an allegation it says is circulating in the media; that the CFIA should have recalled products when a single case of illness was reported in October.
The CFIA says when it and PHAC were notified of the case, there was no link established to a specific food source.
On Dec. 5, the CFIA launched an investigation as soon as public health authorities determined that a cluster of cases were potentially linked to a common food source.
Even though the incidence of E. coli illness is declining annually, the CFIA says that at any given time there are multiple cases under investigation in Canada, and only some of these are ever linked to a food source.
“Public health and food safety authorities work as quickly as possible to gather and assess critical information needed to properly investigate situations where food may be linked to illness,” says the CFIA. “Taking action without this information could result in missed or misdirected recalls, which would not protect consumers.”