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CFIA investigates “possible link” in E.coli outbreak

By Joe Whitworth , 21-Feb-2013

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is trying to establish if there is a link between a current E.coli outbreak from burgers produced at the same facility it investigated in December.

The CFIA said two people had been sickened by E.coli O157:H7 from frozen burgers and it was investigating at the production site of Cardinal Meat Specialists.

The agency investigated Cardinal Meat Specialists late last year , concluding the investigation without finding a source and said work was underway to asses if and how the situations may be linked.

It's important to note that Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd. is one of the largest producers of frozen burger patties in Canada, sourcing ingredients from a variety of other suppliers,” stated the agency.

“Therefore, its involvement in a recall of frozen burgers does not necessarily signal a problem in the Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd. facility itself.”

Safeway recall

The recall involves a different brand of burgers, sold by Canada Safeway, distributed in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Northwest Territories.

The CFIA said it was informed of the illnesses on 13 February and based on the food histories of the people that became sick, it began collecting samples of burgers from retail stores in Ontario and Western Canada for testing.

The recall was initiated after testing returned positive results for E.coli O157:H7.

Cardinal Meat Specialists recalled all products produced on the same line and the same day as the burgers that tested positive and test results to determine if the cases of illnesses are linked to the recalled burgers are still pending.

Investigation focus

An investigation was underway to examine how the burgers may have become contaminated, said the agency.

“Our focus is two pronged: verifying that appropriate E.coli controls were applied in the facility and tracing all ingredients, which include domestic and international inputs, used in the recalled burgers.”

The CFIA admitted the presence of bacteria in raw products cannot be completely eliminated and advised consumers to ensure hamburger patties are cooked to at least 71°C.

It added that as its work progressed, more products could be recalled.

In the previous investigation , which concluded on 24 December, no source of E.coli was found despite testing spices, and domestic and international beef ingredients used in the production, some of which came from Australia and New Zealand.

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