Canadians more concerned abooout trade than sick people

The creeping Canadian beef warnings continue this evening, with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warning the public tonight of a further expanded list of products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 involving Ranchers Beef Ltd. (Establishment 630), Balzac, Alberta.

The story — or at least the Canadian involvement in the Topps meat E. coli O157:H7 recall — became publicly known on Oct. 26/07. The Americans identified the Canadian supplier as Ranchers Beef, while the CFIA press release didn’t identify the company, but did mention that,

The investigation is examining 45 cases of E. coli O157:H7 that were found in New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. These cases were previously reported from July to September, 2007. As a result of these cases, eleven people were hospitalized and one elderly individual died.

All subsequent CFIA press releases, including tonight’s, state,

"There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of  these products."

Except that initial Oct. 26/07 CFIA press release said the 45 Canadian cases shared the same "unique pattern of E. coli" and "this new E. coli pattern has also been found in the United States and the same unique E. coli pattern that was found in the majority of cases this summer has been found through genetic testing of samples of beef taken from a meat facility in Alberta."

That means the same genetic pattern was found in the Topps meat, the 40 sick people in the U.S., the 45 sick Canadians, and meat from Ranchers Beef.

So why does CFIA now insist that,

"There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of  these products."

My guess is that the Canadians have not yet found Ranchers Beef product that tests positive. So they  can’t say the product made anyone sick. Epidemiology is good enough for the Americans, but not the Canadians.

But what is most disturbing is the media coverage after the Americans announced Saturday they would increase testing of imported Canadian meat and conduct an audit to see if the Canadians were doing what they say they were doing.

The Canadian papers were filled with outrage over the stricter requirements for exporting meat, but not a single media outlet has followed up on the 45 sick people, 11 hospitalizations and one death.

Rob McNabb of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said the new testing will initially force Canada to higher standards than all other countries importing meat into the U.S., but he hopes the extra testing will be removed following the safety audit, stating,

"When an authority or agency responsible for food safety experiences some significant political pressure, these things will tend to happen."

How much political pressure has CFIA been under to sweep all these Canadian illnesses away as consumer mishandling? And when will some Canadian (or American) journalist follow up instead of swallowing government palp?

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time