Canadian officials won’t release any information about an E. coli investigation involving beef despite the fact that more than 860 products have been recalled. The CFIA has warned five countries about the recalled meat. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) posted the first recall related to the investigation on Oct. 3. It involved an undisclosed amount of beef and veal from St. Ann’s Foods Inc. and Ryding-Regency Meat Packers Ltd. That recall and the 20 that have followed all said the action was “triggered by the CFIA’s inspection activities.” But the government will not reveal what the specific inspection trigger was.

The most recall is dated Oct. 29 and does not provide any investigation details.  

“Food safety investigations are complex and involve several essential steps to determine if a food recall is required. A detailed explanation of the food safety investigation and recall process is available here,” according to an unsigned statement provided to Food Safety News by the CFIA’s media relations office. 

“The CFIA provides updates to the public on its website regarding new developments in this matter while continuing to respect the integrity of the investigation.”

The most recent consumer update posted does not include any investigation information, except to say it is ongoing. The agency will not say how much meat has been recalled, in total or for any of the individual recalls.

“For information regarding the quantity of meat involved, please contact the company,” the media relations message said.

Some of the recalls haven’t listed any company names. They have merely stated the “industry” was recalling products. Some of the recalled products were distributed without branded labeling. For a list of all of the recalled beef and veal, click here. 

The CFIA has taken action against the two meat suppliers named in the first recall. It suspended the licenses of Ryding-Regency and St. Ann’s Foods Inc. The suspensions are in place “because the license holders failed to implement effective control measures in accordance with Part 4 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR),” according to the CFIA media relations message. 

But, the agency won’t say what caused officials to begin the investigation in the first place. 

It is not known if the CFIA’s own random or scheduled testing sparked the investigation. It is not known if wholesale business customers complained about contamination. It is not known if retailers complained. It is not known when or why the investigation began because Canadian officials won’t release that information.

The CFIA has, however, provided some details about the recalled meat to officials in at least five countries, including the United States.

“The CFIA has notified the United States, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and China that potentially affected products may have entered their markets,” the agency’s message states. “The CFIA will provide updates as developments occur, and will continue to notify affected trading partners so they can take appropriate measures to address any possible risks.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public warning on Oct. 16 for consumers and foodservice operators to not serve or consume recalled beef products imported from Canada.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.