Five more cases of E.coli linked to massive beef recall
Published Saturday, October 6, 2012 12:25PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 7, 2012 8:20AM EDT
Canada’s Public Health Agency confirmed Saturday that five more cases of E.coli illnesses have been linked to a massive beef recall involving Alberta’s XL Foods plant.
Three cases of E.coli illness were confirmed in Alberta and two others in Quebec.
Health officials said the illnesses stemmed from the same strain of E.coli that has been detected on contaminated beef products processed at the Brooks, Alta. XL Foods plant.
Officials said all five individuals have already recovered.
So far, seven of the 10 confirmed E. coli cases were in Alberta, with two cases in Quebec and one case in Newfoundland.
Officials with the Public Health Agency said the strain of E.coli found at XL Foods, E.coli O157, has not been observed in Canada or the United States prior to the tainted beef recall.
“We’re very confident that if you have this generic fingerprint in your E.coli, that you’re related to the XL situation,” said Dr. Frank Plummer during a teleconference on Saturday.
Officials would not comment on the number of suspected cases of E.coli-related illnesses as the number is constantly changing.
Meanwhile, the list of recalled beef products from the plant in Brooks, Alberta has been expanded once again.
Dozens more meat cuts and stores have been added to the recall list, which now contains over 1,500 products and affects retailers across Canada, as well as the U.S.
The latest products added to the list include steaks, lean ground beef, roasts, stews, oxtail and sausages. Stores added to the list include Buy-Low Foods, Nesters Market, 49th Parallel Grocery, Fairway Markets, Quality Foods, Superstore, Dominion, Save Easy, Valu Mart and T & T Supermarket.
The manager of Ottawa’s Lavergne Western Beef said by the time he found out that the products he bought from his supplier stemmed from XL Food, most of the recalled meat in his store was sold.
“We only use federally approved or Ontario approved products for beef, pork or chicken,” Mario Ericksen told CTV Ottawa on Saturday. “I buy that beef and it’s not approved and for some reason I look bad. But I thought did what I had to do.”
Ericksen said 200 pounds of beef products have already been returned to his store for a refund. The beef will be quarantined and destroyed.
Caterer Matt Flosse, owner of Meatings.ca, said his customers have been wary about buying beef products.
“They weren’t ordering as much beef…so it has affected us as well,” he said.
Largest meat recall in Canadian history
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is advising consumers who are unsure if their beef is affected by the recall to check with the place of purchase or to throw it out.
The XL Foods recall is the largest in Canadian history, and has caused many to cast blame for the ever expanding list on the CFIA and the government.
Critics have claimed that the CFIA acted too slowly in suspending the plant’s licence once it learned that E. coli was detected on raw beef processed at the Brooks processing plant in early September.
But CFIA director of meat inspections Richard Arsenault said on Friday that more time was needed to conduct a thorough investigation.
“Our goal was to find out what was going on an act on the evidence as opposed to react to a signal,” said Arsenault during a news teleconference on Friday.
The agency said as soon as the E. coli contamination was confirmed, processes at the plant were modified.
All operations at the plant were suspended on Sept. 27 and Ritz has said the plant will not resume operations until the CFIA confirms in writing that safe food procedures are in place.
“We’re not the people who will dictate the timeline (to re-open),” said Arsenault on Saturday. “We set what we need to have done before the plant will operate. The plant will have to fix all the things that have been identified and it will be up to the plant to decide the timeline.”
The closure of the large XL Foods plant has caused a ripple effect in the Alberta cattle industry, with many cattle farmers claiming that the closure of the plant is affecting their ability to get their product to market.
“This is something beef farmers are very concerned about – a lot of the concern is about what’s going to happen with that facility,” said John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. “We raise cattle and cattle need to go somewhere to be transformed into meat. That’s the role of XL Foods.”
According to Masswohl, XL Foods and Cargill – another meat processing company – process over 90 per cent of the country’s beef.