October 8, 2012
Number Of Illnesses Double In Canadian E. Coli Case
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The number of people who have fallen ill after consuming contaminated beef products originating from a Canadian plant has doubled, while revelations that the facility failed to follow its own safety protocols and questions regarding health officials' handling of the situation emerged over the weekend.
According to Reuters reporter Rod Nickel, there were 10 confirmed illnesses in the case as of Saturday night, including three in Alberta, where the plant responsible for the E. coli contamination is located. Health and food inspection officials told reporters via conference call that all 10 individuals were recovering.
"The ever-widening recall of meat from the plant now involves more than 1,800 products including steaks, ground beef and roasts and now spans all of Canada and most U.S. states," Nickel said. "The previous four cases were also in Alberta, and officials say they have evidence that these victims ate meat produced by the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta, which has been shut down since September 27."
Officials confirmed that the bacteria strain responsible for the new illnesses was the same as in the previous ones, but said that they could not provide evidence that the individuals had eaten food originating from XL Foods.
The reports of the new illnesses came one day after Gloria Galloway of The Globe and Mail revealed that the plant had discovered the E. coli strain in early September, but still continued to produce meat for at least three weeks after that discovery. Furthermore, food inspectors revealed that, even though the company had a plan for dealing with such contamination in place, they failed to follow it.
"A day earlier, XL Foods said it took full responsibility for its tainted products. Its operations remain closed and“¦ they will not reopen until the agency is certain the bacteria are no longer an issue," Galloway said. "But questions remain about why meat continued to be processed so long after E. coli was discovered."
Shipments from the plant to the US stopped on September 13, according to Reuters -- 14 days before Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) officials pulled the company's license.
"Both CFIA officials and government representatives have said they are counting on a piece of legislation that is now before the Senate“¦ to make it easier to force companies to comply with such requests," Galloway said. "But Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, which represents Canadian meat inspectors, said his members have always been told that, when documentation is not handed over, they can pull the company´s license."
"CFIA officials said they did not move to shut down the plant on the first day that the information was not forthcoming because they did not realize the scope of the problem," she added. As for the company itself, Nickel said that it announced on Friday that it "deeply regretted the sickness caused by consumption of beef products" and "promised to exceed existing high standards and regain the trust of Canadian consumers."