Frequently Asked Questions
Investigation into E. coli O121 in Flour and Flour Products

I have the UPC code and the best before date. How can I determine if I have a recalled product?

You can determine if you have a recalled product by viewing a complete list of recalled products, including the brand name, common name, package size, lot codes, best before date, and UPC (bar code) for each of the recalled products. Check the product details on the packaging to see if they match the product details listed. If it matches, your product has been recalled.

Do the UPC code and the best before date have to match? If they don't, is the product safe to consume?

The best before date, the lot code, and the UPC code have to match.

More information on how to read food date labels and packaging.

What is a lot code?

A lot code is a mark of identification on food products issued by manufacturers. There are no mandatory or universal standards on how a lot code is listed on products, which can make it confusing for consumers to determine if a product is part of a recall.

When manufacturers produce a product, they do so in batches. Each batch is assigned a unique number, called a lot code. All packages of products with the same lot code are considered to have exactly the same qualities (produced at the same location, in the same timeframe, and in the case of a recall, may be contaminated with the same pathogen).

Why is a lot code listed on all food products?

A lot code is a product's distinct identification. In the event of a food recall, this code makes it possible for manufacturers to track a product – knowing exactly when a problem occurred and which product(s) need(s) to be removed from the market.

The lot code also helps consumers determine whether they have a recalled product in their home.

Where is the lot code located on food products?

The lot code is ink jetted, stickered, or stamped on the product's packaging. The lot code can be either on the top, the bottom or the side of the packaging. The lot code is not printed as a standard part of a product label, because it changes with every new batch produced.

How do I read, for example, a flour product's lot code?

The lot code is the date the product was made. It could look something like this:

13 365 548 15:30 5439 or 3 365 628A 1438

The first one or two numbers often represent the year it was made. For instance, the 13 or 3 in the above example would mean the product was made in 2013. A number 12 or 2 would mean it was made in 2012, and so on.

The next three numbers often represent the day of the year the product was made. In the above example, the 365 (or three hundred and sixty-fifth day of the year) is December 31.

Here is an example of what a lot code looks like:
Sample of lot code

I prepared baked goods with a recalled product. Are the baked goods safe to eat?

If you suspect you may have used recalled flour to make baked goods or a non-baked product (such as home-made children's play-dough), you should throw out the baked goods or product. Do not use or eat the recalled flour or flour products. If you have the recalled product in your home, secure the recalled product in a plastic bag and throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased. Wash all surfaces or containers where the product may have been used or stored.

Since buying flour, I transferred it to a food container. I no longer have the original package and I am not sure if I have the recalled product. What should I do?

If you have flour without its original packaging and are unsure if it is included in the food recall, throw it out just to be safe. As a general practice, you should thoroughly wash any containers that were used to store food products before using them again.

My family member may have become sick after eating flour. The product I have is not on the list of recalled products. What should I do?

If you think you or family member became sick from consuming flour or flour products, call your doctor.

Food contaminated with E. coli O121 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • mild to severe abdominal cramps, and/or
  • watery to bloody diarrhea.

In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In the most severe cases of illness, people may die.

What does "BB/MA" mean under the "Code(s) on Product"?

BB/MA means "best before" in English, and "meilleur avant" in French.

More information on how to read food date labels and packaging.

Where is the best before (BB/MA) date located on the product?

The best before date can appear anywhere on a package, including on the bottom.

More information on how to read food date labels and packaging.

Are generic brands of flour part of this recall?

You can determine what brands of flour are recalled using the complete list of recalled products. This list includes the brand name, common name, package size, lot codes, best before date, and UPC (bar code) for each of the recalled products.

I have an unopened bag of the recalled flour, but I no longer have the receipt. Can I still return the product?

Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

When using flour, what do I need to do to reduce the risk of becoming ill?

The Public Health Agency of Canada has advised that, for general use of flour, the following tips will also help reduce your risk of becoming ill:

  • Do not taste raw dough or batter. Eating a small amount could make you sick.
  • Bake or cook thoroughly any items made with raw dough or batter before eating them.
  • Always use hot water and soap to wash any bowls, utensils, or surfaces that flour was used on.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately after touching flour, raw dough or batter.

Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have become ill from eating raw dough or batter or from consuming or handling a flour product.

Public Health Notice – Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to various flours and flour products

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