Illnesses linked to a massive recall of Canadian beef have more than doubled this week as the recall continues to expand, most recently to include Hong Kong. Eleven E. coli O157:H7 cases have now been linked to XL Foods, Inc, including the first case reported in British Columbia.
On Monday, the BC Centre of Disease Control confirmed that one case in the province was caused by the same strain of E. coli found in the investigation of XL Foods, Inc, one of the largest processors in Canada.
BC health authorities said they have not seen an overall increase in the number of E. coli O157:H7 cases, but they are monitoring the situation.
The recall – which has been expanded 16 times – is the largest in Canadian history, though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has declined to provide an estimate of the total pounds recalled. Approximately 2.5 million pounds of potentially contaminated beef from XL Foods entered the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
“Consumers are encouraged to check their fridge and/or freezer to see if they have the recalled beef products in their home,” said BCCDC. “If you have any recalled products, discard them or return them to the place of purchase. If you have already prepared and stored this meat, do not consume it. The safest course of action is to throw it away.”
The CFIA has posted a list of more than 1,800 products recalled in Canada. For the most up-to-date list of recalled steaks, roasts, and ground beef products from U.S. retailers — which include Safeway, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, Kroger, and others — check eFoodAlert.
XL Foods has been temporarily closed down and the company is revamping its food safety systems. The CFIA recently released an overview of the issues found in the plant. Authorities cited cross contamination, inconsistent sampling, sanitizer leaking onto product and infrequent cleaning of refrigeration units, among other issues.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. Recalled products should be discarded. In general, ground beef products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees to kill bacteria. Those concerned about a serious foodborne illness should contact a health care provider.
For more on the timeline of the XL Foods recall, see: 2.5 Million Pounds of Recalled Canadian Beef Entered U.S.