Monday, December 17, 2012

Health officials knew in October

Health officials knew in early October that a patient in Edmonton was food poisoned with E. coli 0157:H7 and that the bacteria was different from the E. coli 0157:H7 that came from the XL Foods Inc. plant at Brooks, Alta.

Four more cases showed up over the next two months.

Health officials suspected hamburgers from Cardinal Specialty Meats Limited at Brampton might be the cause.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff shopped retail outlets and picked up 300 packages of hamburger and found this strain of E. coli 0157:H7 in two of them.

That’s what triggered the recall of two types of frozen Butcher’s Choice hamburger from Loblaws stores across Canada.

A few days later, the recall expanded to include Cardinal’s Prime Rib Beef Burgers.

When the Calgary Herald newspaper asked the CFIA why it took so long to recall the tainted hamburger, the agency said it needed conclusive proof there was tainted product on store shelves.

That has prompted Dr. Doug Powell, a food-safety communications specialist, to ask a few questions.


“Doesn’t epidemiology matter?

“Where is this policy (of conclusive proof) enshrined?

“On what basis does CFIA go public?”

The beef industry is taking it on the chin again.

Sales declined after the XL Foods Inc. massive recall and now that Cardinal, with one of the best reputations for food safety in the risky hamburger business, has a recall underway, beef may be in deeper trouble with consumers.