Despite instantaneous communication technology, word of a recall of flour linked to an E. coli outbreak in Canada did not reach Hong Kong until after all of the implicated exported flour had been sold at retail.
In a May 30 notice, officials with the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong urged the public not to consume Kundan brand Durum Atta flour from Canada. Denver-based Ardent Mills Corp. produced the flour from Canadian wheat.
Several brands of flour — as well as products made with it — are under recall in Canada where it has been linked to an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 30 people across six provinces. Another E. coli outbreak, limited to British Columbia, is also linked to flour. It has sickened at least six people. Public health officials are not sure if the two outbreaks are related, though both involve E. coli O121.
Ardent Mills began a series of flour recalls in Canada on March 28, with the most recent recall expansion coming May 26.
“The CFS received a notification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that a manufacturer, Ardent Mills, is recalling the affected product as it may be contaminated with E. coli. According to information provided by the concerned Canadian authorities, a local importer New Delhi Store had imported the affected product into Hong Kong,” according to the May 30 notice posted by the department.
“All the product has been sold out with no remaining stock. The CFS is tracing the distribution of the affected product and has instructed the importer to initiate a recall.”
In Hong Kong, consumers can identify the recalled Kundan brand “Durum Atta” flour by looking for the UPC number 6 28622 41522 6 and a best-before date of July 13, 2017. All of the recalled flour sent to Hong Kong was in 9-kilogram packages.
The Center for Food Safety in Hong Kong did not report any illnesses in connection to the recalled flour, but the agency’s notice did encourage consumers who have eaten or handled the flour to monitor themselves for symptoms of E. coli infection.
Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In serious cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or suffer permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.
Public Health Canada has not updated its outbreak information since May 18 when it reported 30 people had been confirmed with E. coli O121 infections that match E. coli O121 found in samples of flour produced by Ardent Mills.
Regarding the most recent recall expansion, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported there had not been any confirmed illnesses associated with the specific products named in the May 26 recall.
“Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. It is not safe to taste or eat raw dough or batter regardless of the type of flour used, as raw flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli O121,” according to the May 26 recall expansion notice.
“Food contaminated with E. coli O121 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.”
In their own version of the May 26 recall expansion notice — which says it applies to flour and flour products from “11 loads of Canadian wheat which were common to the prior recalled flour and flour products and may have contained trace amounts of E. coli 0121” — Ardent Mills officials said contamination is expected with products such as flour.
“There has been no positive finding of contamination and no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these newly recalled products,” according to the Ardent Mills statement.
“Flour is a raw agricultural commodity made by simply grinding and sifting wheat. Any raw grain milled into flour can contain bacteria and microbes from the outdoor environment in which it is grown. The recalled products contain no greater or lesser risk, in this regard, than any other flour or flour products milled using such time-honored traditions.
“By thoroughly cooking, baking, boiling, roasting, frying or microwaving food items made with flour, any microbes are rendered harmless.”
Previously posted recalls involving the implicated flour are available on the CFIA website:
- 2017-05-11 – Various pie and tart shells recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-05-10 – Tart Shells sold by The New Food Box recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-04-28 – Mom’s Pantry / Jim & Leonie brand 3″ Unsweetened Tart Shells and 9″ Unbaked Pie Lids recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-04-25 – Various brands of pie and tart shells recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-04-16 – Various brands of flour and flour products recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-04-12 – Various brands of flour and flour products recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-04-04 – Robin Hood brand All Purpose Flour, Original recalled due to E. coli O121
- 2017-03-28 – Robin Hood brand All Purpose Flour, Original recalled due to E. coli O121
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