Almost daily, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) releases another update to the list of recalled beef products that originated from XL Foods’ Brooks (Alberta) establishment. The agency has posted a complete list of recalled products, sorted by retailer.
Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that the number of confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to consumption of products from XL Foods has increased to ten people in three provinces: Alberta (7 illnesses), Newfoundland and Labrador (1 case) and Quebec (2 cases). In addition, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is investigating 13 cases of E. coli in that province – all reported in September – to determine whether or not they are linked to the recalled meat. Saskatchewan ordinarily experiences from zero to four cases of E. coli illnesses during the month of September.
CFIA has suspended operations at XL’s Brooks facility. The recalls have been issued. But the damage already has been done. Beef from the plant was distributed all across Canada, and was exported to the USA and to Hong Kong. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Agency issued a Public Health Alert four days after the first XL-announced recall, and updated that alert a couple of times, but has NOT provided consumers with any information – beyond a list of affected retailers – on the list of products that were distributed in the USA.
On October 5th, FSIS updated its Public Health Alert to indicated that approximately 1.1 million pounds of trim and approximately 1.4 million pounds of primal and sub-primal cuts of beef from XL Foods were received by US firms. Two and a half million pounds – that’s 1,250 tons – of beef that is “floating around” in the US, with no information provided to consumers as to what meat to avoid.
The Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety posted the following notice yesterday (October 5, 2012):
Import of contaminated raw beef from a Canadian food company suspended
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) today (October 5) announced that as the Canadian authority found some raw beef and beef products manufactured by XL Foods Inc there contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, the CFS would suspend import of those products produced on and after August 24 by the manufacturer concerned with immediate effect as a precaution.
The CFS was notified by the Canadian authority that the manufacturer was recalling the affected raw beef and beef products, and part of the raw beef had been imported into Hong Kong. According to CFS’ initial investigations, a small portion of the products had been distributed to some local retailers.
“The CFS has alerted the trade and instructed the importer and distributors concerned to stop selling and start recalling the products of the affected batches,” a CFS spokesman said.
Consumption of contaminated food (often raw meat or meat not thoroughly cooked and fresh agricultural produce) is the common mode of transmission for E. coli O157:H7. Pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, young children and the elderly are most at risk for developing serious complications like bloody diarrhoea.
The spokesman reminded the public not to consume hamburgers, minced beef, and other meat that are not thoroughly cooked to minimise the risk of infection by E. coli O157:H7. They should wash thoroughly and cook ground beef and hamburgers to a core temperature of 70 degrees Celsius or above for at least two minutes.
More information about how to prevent E.coli O157:H7 infection is available on CFS’ website:
“We will continue liaising with the Canadian authorities and closely monitor the situation. Relevant control measures will be reviewed when further information is obtained,” the spokesman said.
There has been no indication yet of any US or Hong Kong cases of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to the consumption of the XL Foods beef products.
eFoodAlert is working to update its consolidated list of beef products recalled in Canada and the USA and will continue to monitor and report on the outbreak situation. Please consult the Canada/USA Beef Recall page for more information.