A national recall of beef products that may be contaminated by E. coli O157: H7 was prompted by an illness in Alberta linked to products from a Saskatoon company.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency specialist Garfield Balsom said Tuesday he was aware of one person in Alberta who became ill from the contamination.
“That was the trigger for our original investigation, a report in the middle of February," Balsom said. "That started out the food safety investigation."
Canadian consumers are being warned to avoid 135 frozen beef products, with brands ranging from President's Choice to Irresistibles to Lick's being recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
The recalled products, which include President's Choice Thick and Juicy Burgers, Keg Prime Rib Beef Burgers and Lick's Homeburger beef burgers, are sold at supermarkets and used in restaurants and institutional establishments across the country.
“This is a national recall. We are putting out the warning to all consumers, retailers and institutions that may have received the food … not to consume it," Balsom said.
He said a single Saskatoon company named New Food Classics was linked to the recall. The company has plants in Saskatoon and St. Catharines, Ont., as well as an office in Burlington, Ont.
Same strain as Walkerton
The meat products may be contaminated with the E. coli strain O157:H7, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says. This is the same strain that killed seven people in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000 and sickened hundreds of others in the quiet town who drank water from the contaminated public water supply.
The recall is part of an ongoing CFIA investigation into products potentially contaminated with E. coli, and this warning expands the list to 135 products. A full list of the contaminated products is available on the inspection agency's website.
There has been at least one reported illness associated with the consumption of these beef products, according to a statement from the agency.
The beef products were made between July 1, 2011, and Feb. 15, 2012.
The CFIA is working with all retailers and distributors to recall all affected products from the marketplace.
Windsor Regional Hospital staff members learned of the recall on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, an hour after they began serving the recalled meat, the food services co-ordinator told CBC News.
"When it comes to the patients here at Windsor Regional Hospital, we take patient safety into extreme measures, and we did a report of all the patients that ate the product or potentially ate the product and we went up to visit and confirm whether they ate the product or not," Dionisi said.
No illnesses were reported at the Windsor hospital.
Consumption of food contaminated with E. coli may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, the agency says. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Some people may have seizures or strokes and some may need blood transfusions or kidney dialysis.
The potentially contaminated products can be identified by the establishment number that appears on the packages, cartons or cases. The products made at this facility bear establishment number (EST) 761.
"The brand New Food Classics doesn't appear on a lot of products but the establishment number does," Balsom said.
The affected products involved in the recall may be identified by one of the following codes:
- Bearing a best before date from BB 2012 JA 01 up to and including to BB 2013 FE 15.
- Bearing a production code with a format of 11 JL 01 up to and including 12 FE 15.
- Bearing a five-digit lot code, where the last four digits are 1831 or greater.