2012-12-17 – Investigation into Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd.
Today the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed a link between Butcher's Choice burgers and a small cluster of illnesses in Ontario and Alberta. All of this product was recalled from the marketplace between December 12 and December 15, 2012.
Analysis of samples taken by the CFIA is ongoing, but to date, the CFIA has determined that one production day of recalled burgers has the same E. coli O157:H7 genetic fingerprint as the reported illnesses. Recalled burgers from a second production day have been confirmed to have E. coli O157:H7 but they are not linked to any recent or current illness outbreaks. Genetic information from the two remaining production days of recalled burgers is expected later this week, and this information will help inform the CFIA's ongoing food safety investigation.
The company that produced the recalled burgers, Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., is a processing facility that uses ingredients from a range of suppliers. The CFIA is investigating ingredients used in the recalled burgers through three lines of inquiry: spices, domestic beef ingredients and imported beef ingredients. The imported beef ingredients are from Australia and New Zealand, and the Agency is following up with these countries to review testing information and determine if any potentially linked illnesses have been reported. In its investigation of spices and domestic beef ingredient suppliers, the CFIA is reviewing production records, inspection reports and test results to identify any indicators of elevated E. coli risk for the ingredients used to make the recalled burgers. Where samples are available, testing is underway. If the CFIA's investigation identifies potentially contaminated ingredients, additional products may be recalled.
That is the update on the investigation. The CFIA would like to clarify an allegation circulating in the media. It has been suggested that the CFIA should have recalled products when a single case of illness was reported in October. While the CFIA and the PHAC were notified of this case, there was no link established to a specific food source. On December 5, the CFIA launched an investigation as soon as public health authorities determined that a cluster of cases were potentially linked to a common food source. Even though the incidence of E. coli illness is declining annually, it is important to note that at any given time there are multiple cases under investigation in Canada, and only some of these are ever linked to a food source. Public health and food safety authorities work as quickly as possible to gather and assess critical information needed to properly investigate situations where food may be linked to illness. Taking action without this information could result in missed or misdirected recalls, which would not protect consumers.
Additionally, we all have a role to play in food safety, particularly when dealing with raw products. Consumers can take a few simple steps to keep their food safe. Cooking ground beef to at least 71°C fully destroys E. coli bacteria. As well, consumers can prevent contamination of other foods by ensuring that cooking surfaces and utensils are well cleaned with soap and water after coming into contact with raw beef.
Information on the CFIA's investigation will be regularly updated through the CFIA's website and technical briefings for media.
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