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Ongoing investigation uncovers E.coli contamination

By Joe Whitworth , 20-Dec-2012

E.coli has been found in a number of frozen burgers that have so far sickened five people in Canada.

The products were recalled between 12 and 15 December and were found to be contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7 as part of an ongoing investigation into Cardinal Meat Specialists.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) held a technical briefing this week with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that confirmed the link between the Butcher’s Choice burgers and the illnesses in Ontario and Alberta and one case of hospitalization.

Affected production days

CFIA said it had determined that one production day of recalled burgers has the same E.coli genetic fingerprint as the reported illnesses. Recalled burgers from a second production day were also confirmed to have E.coli but have not yet been linked to any illness outbreaks.

The watchdog said it expected results from the two remaining production days of recalled burgers later this week.

Cardinal Meat Specialists is a processing facility that uses ingredients from a range of suppliers.

Currently the recalled products include selected Butcher’s Choice Garlic Peppercorn beef burgers, Hickory Barbecue beef burgers, Beef Burgers and certain Cardinal Select brand Prime Rib beef burgers.

Investigation focus

CFIA is investigating ingredients used in the recalled burgers through 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,” said a statement.

The agency added cooking ground beef to at least 71°C fully destroys E.coli bacteria.

Cardinal response

A statement from Brent Cator, president of Cardinal, on their website aimed to reassure customers.

“Cardinal has the highest food safety standards in the industry and no corrective actions have been initiated by the CFIA in relation to this recall. 

“It is also important to note that no Cardinal Branded products have tested positive for e coli and the recall of the Cardinal Select product is strictly a precautionary measure on our part.

“The issue is limited to specific production dates and specific meat inputs and products and there is no known relation to the meat inputs, spice blends, other ingredients, and production dates for the other products that we manufacture.”

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