The strain of E. coli bacteria found in Butcher’s Choice Garlic Peppercorn Beef Burgers was the same one that made five people sick in Ontario and Alberta, officials told a news conference Monday.
“All of this product was recalled from the marketplace between Dec. 12 and Dec. 15,” said Paul Mayers, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's vice-president of programs.
The frozen burgers are sold at Loblaws stores across Canada.
Two other beef products — Cardinal Select brand Prime Rib Beef Burgers and Butcher's Choice Hickory Barbecue Beef Burgers — have also been recalled, but they have not been linked to any cases of illness.
All of the beef in question was produced by Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., based in Brampton, Ont.
E. coli infection can cause serious illnesses, but the five victims of the outbreak have either recovered or are recovering.
Officials acknowledged knowing about E. coli cases in Canada as early as October, but said they were not in a position to issue any recalls.
“The identification of a case of illness with no source of the particular food associated, while it triggers investigations, cannot lead to a recall at that time,” Mayers said.
A patient may have eaten a number of different foods, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific source of infection, he explained.
“Indeed, we took samples of the Butcher’s Choice product at the time. All of those tests came back negative for (E. coli),” Mayers said.
Mayers reiterated the importance of cooking beef well to destroy E. coli bacteria and to ensure cooking surfaces and utensils are free of uncooked beef to avoid E. coli infection.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the cases of illness were in Ontario and Quebec.