Canadian Beef Recall Spreading

A massive, voluntary recall of beef products distributed by XL Foods of Alberta, Canada, due to possible contamination with E. coli 0157:H7, appears to have spread to the U.S.

The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service announced on September 21 that products tainted with E. coli, or suspected to be contaminated, had been distributed in eight states: California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

“FSIS is working to confirm that actions are being taken to remove the product from commerce,” the agency said in an alert.

Even before that announcement, on September 18, Kroger posted a recall of certain lots of KRO ground beef from its stores in the Cincinnati area, including northern Kentucky; Dayton, Ohio; southeastern Indiana; Illinois; and eastern Missouri.

The recall began in Canada on September 16, when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a public warning regarding beef sold by Calahoo Meats, Costco under its Kirkland Signature brand, Walmart, and Safeway; on September 17, it was expanded to include beef products sold by a number of other popular Canadian grocery stores, including Sobeys, Foodland, and Metro.

“With regard to the distribution and the area of coverage and the number of retailers who are providing us information on the product, it is fairly extensive,” CFIA’s Garfield Balsom told the Canadian press on September 18.

So far, no illnesses have been reported in connection with the recall, according to the CFIA, which said that the hazard warning is “part of an ongoing food safety investigation.” But Vancouver news stations reported on September 21 that Albert Health Services was investigating four recent cases of illness linked to E. coli and trying to determine if there is a link to the contaminated beef.

Guy Loneragan, PhD, professor of epidemiology and animal health in Texas Tech University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, called the current recall interesting. “It appears that testing in Canada did not yield a positive result,” he said. “However, at the border, USDA/FSIS reportedly took a sample as part of its import testing program, and it yielded a positive result for E. coli 0157. That product, apparently, had been distributed to further wholesalers and retailers in the U.S., and product from that production unit had been distributed in Canada.”

Loneragan praised the reaction thus far. “It appears the company involved and the regulators in Canada and the U.S. are doing all they can to remove potentially contaminated product from commerce,” he said.

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