The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed this weekend that a production lot of Beef Burger Meat Mix 80/20 – recalled on April 6th by Intercity Packers (East) Ltd – was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella illnesses that sickened 50 people in Ottawa during March.

The Ottawa outbreak victims – including 40 children ranging in age from 15 months to 18 years – consisted mainly of students and staff at a day care and at more than a dozen schools in the Ottawa area. Three people were hospitalized as a result of their infections.

The outbreak was traced to The Lunch Lady, a caterer that supplied lunches to the affected schools and to the day care facility. Investigations carried out at the catering premises revealed the presence of Salmonella Typhimurium in a March 13th sample of frozen uncooked ground beef, and the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg in raw Halal chicken sampled on March 15th.

Traceback investigations identified the contaminated beef as having originated from Intercity Packers (East) Ltd., located in Mississauga, Ontario.

The recalled meat, identified as Intercity Packers Ltd Brand Beef Burger Meat Mix 80/20, was sold in 5 kg cases (each containing 2 x 2.5 kg units) bearing UPC 90066172180172 and lot code 046. The affected product can be identified by the Establishment number (EST) 503 that appears on the outer cases. The chubs inside the case do not carry any label. The product was distributed to public and commercial food establishments in Ontario and Newfoundland, and possibly also to retailers in Newfoundland.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports that Ontario and local public health authorities are participating in the outbreak investigation, including in parts of southern Ontario outside of Ottawa. Neither the total number of illnesses nor geographic locations where other suspected outbreak-related illnesses are under investigation have been revealed. PHAC has described the outbreak as comprising “more than 50 illnesses” in Ontario.

On March 2nd, Toronto Public Health reported an unusually high incidence of Salmonella illnesses – 114 cases during the first two months of 2012. Included in these cases were an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses among attendees at a large catered event in York Region that took place on February 11th, and a separate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses that across the Greater Toronto Area.

Requests for additional information sent to Toronto Public Health, PHAC, the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency so far have elicited only “canned” referrals to the PHAC and CFIA web sites. A request emailed to Intercity Packers for comment has not yet received a reply.

The recalled Beef Burger Mix was identified as bearing lot code 046, which indicates that it likely was produced on February 15th – too late to be responsible for the February 11th York Region outbreak cluster of Salmonella Typhimurium infections, even if burgers were on the menu at the event.

It would not be unusual – depending on the findings of the investigation – for the recall to be expanded to include additional production lots predating or subsequent to the lot that already has been recalled.

eFoodAlert Advice to Consumers

  • Consumers in Newfoundland who may have purchased this product at retail should check their freezers and discard any suspect product.
  • Any consumer in Ontario and Newfoundland who develops gastroenteritis (diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, low-grade fever) within seven days of consuming a beef burger – especially in a restaurant, cafeteria, institution or at a catered event – should seek medical attention.