10/10/2012 01:49 EDT | Updated 12/09/2012 05:12 EST

E. Coli Cases Likely Not Linked To XL Foods Recall, Province Says

A hamburger made from ground beef containing what is derisively referred to as "pink slime," or what the meat industry calls "lean, finely textured beef," right, and one made from pure 85% lean ground beef are ready for tasting Thursday, March 15, 2012 in Concord, N.H. Under a change announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, districts that get food through the government's school lunch program will be allowed to say no to ground beef containing the ammonia-treated filler and choose filler-free meat instead. The low-cost filler is made from fatty meat scraps that are heated to remove most of the fat, then treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
According to provincial health officials, more than a dozen cases of E. coli in Saskatchewan are likely not connected to the XL Foods beef recall, but half of the cases are linked to a Regina eatery that was shut down last week.

The province has finished initial testing of 14 of the 15 E. coli cases reported since August.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the chief medical health officer, said the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria does not match the one at the XL Foods plant in Alberta.

"Based on that we don't have any cases that are confirmed linked to the recall, but of course we do use the information to see if there is any linkage to one another," said Shahab.

He confirmed four of the cases come from a single household, another four are unrelated and six, likely seven, of the cases are linked to Regina's Flip Eatery.

The restaurant voluntarily closed last week after learning people were diagnosed with E. coli after eating there.

"We chose and we wanted to make sure the public knew that we were doing everything we can no matter how hard it is for us to take those steps, we had to take those steps and be responsible," said Timothy Martin, one of the restaurant owners.

Martin said the eatery has had three inspections in the last two weeks and the establishment has passed all of them.

"Those people that walk by and give us the thumbs up when we're cleaning the place, it's that type of a thing that's really encouraging," said he said.

This year, Saskatchewan has seen a spike in E. coli infections. In an average year there are between zero and four in the province, but this year there have been 15 confirmed cases.

When will we be certain there is no link ?

Saskatchewan has no confirmed cases linked to the meat recall so far, which is currently defined as an exact lab E. coli match with symptoms starting August 1st or later.

According to officials, tests are done to see if the bacterial footprint found in the XL Foods meat matches that of those that have become ill from E. coli in the past months.

Saskatchewan officials said the initial tests performed on the 15 E. coli cases do not have an established connection with the meat recall.

However, they said it can only be definitively confirmed that the cases have no link to XL Foods meat when federal inspectors end their investigation and conclude there is only one strain of E. coli responsible for the meat contamination.

They said that may take one to two weeks.

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