Food plant at centre of beef recall now closed
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2012 10:00PM EDT
The frozen burgers and beef steakette products that are being pulled from stores across Canada because of possible contamination with E. coli all came from a large food-processing company that has since gone into receivership.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says all of the recalled beef products were produced at "Establishment 761." That's the identifier number of New Food Classics, based in Burlington, Ont.
CFIA food safety and recall specialist Garfield Balsom tells The Canadian Press that the company went into receivership earlier this year, around the time the investigation began. Its plants in Saskatoon and St. Catharines, Ont. are no longer operational.
The recall began last month, when certain burgers and steakettes produced by New Food Classics were suspected of being contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Since then, the investigation has continued, revealing more products that might have been contaminated. That's resulted in eight more updates from the CFIA.
"The CFIA continues to investigate the underlying issues that may have contributed to positive E. coli results in certain ground beef products that were produced by New Food Classics at Establishment 761," the agency said on its website.
If more affected products are identified, they will be added to the list on the CFIA's website.
Canadians are currently being advised to avoid more than 135 burger and beef steakette products. The affected brand names include:
- Best Value
- Maple Lodge Farms
- PC and PC Blue Menu
- Calgary Stampede
- Country Morning Gold
- Western Family
The products were produced between July 1, 2011 and Feb. 15, 2012 and distributed across the country to retail stores, restaurants and institutions such as hospitals.
So far, there has been one reported illness in a consumer in Alberta. That report came into the CFIA around Feb. 15.
The affected products can be identified by the words "Establishment 761" that appear on the packages, cartons or cases.
"The brand 'New Food Classics' doesn't appear on a lot of products but the establishment number does," Balsom told CP.
The recall surprised the union representing workers at the Saskatoon plant.
"It's a pretty big recall and it is not characteristic of our plant, that is for sure," Norm Neault of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union told CTV News.
"I don't know if they have had one of that magnitude before ... or if any. So it was a big surprise."
The products might also have a best before date from Jan. 1, 2012 up to and including Feb. 15, 2013 and a production code with a format of 11 JL 01 up to and including 12 FE 15.
The CFIA says it is working with retailers and distributors to recall all affected products from the marketplace and is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.
Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled, but eating it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. The illness can lead to significant blood loss and permanent kidney damage. In the most severe cases, the illness can be fatal.
Cooking food to a safe internal temperature helps reduce the chance of E. coli infection, but in the case of the current recall, the CFIA is advising the public not to consume the affected products at all.
"Our message to consumers is if you have these products in your freezers, do not consume them," Balsom said.
In an earlier CFIA release, Lick's Homeburgers was listed among those brands to avoid. However, the company said that it does not use the brand of beef in question for retail purposes.
"In fact, Lick's uses Cargill, a different facility, to produce a majority of their Lick's Burger products for sale at Grocery stores and Lick's Restaurants and these products are not affected by the CFIA recall," the company said in a statement to CTV News.