E. coli ‘can really screw you; I know’ Victim says delay in Canadian action ‘unacceptable’

The Calgary Sun reports that the idea a simple ground-beef patty could condemn you to life in a wheelchair wouldn’t even occur to most people — and it certainly didn’t occur to Stephanie Smith.

It was 2007 when the 20-year-old dance instructor ate a hamburger at a family dinner, an event so innocuous that even a bout of stomach cramps hours later were shrugged off by Smith as no big deal.

But what Smith suspected was stomach flu grew worse, and five days after the family meal, the healthy young woman was rushed to a Minnesota hospital in agony, suffering from bloody diarrhea and kidney failure.

Smith was a worst-case scenario for the bacteria now causing a public-health debate in Canada, with E. coli attacking her entire system and forcing doctors to induce a nine-week coma to control seizures.

She survived, though barely, and five years later Smith’s life is an endless regime of doctor’s visits, therapy and learning to deal with daily life in a wheelchair.

In Canada, the stink over bad beef from the XL Foods plant in Brooks is growing, with over 1,100 products now recalled and involving 50 retailers.

E. coli was first detected at the Brooks plant on Sept. 4, but it wasn’t until three weeks later that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) suspended the meat factory’s licence.

That delay is at the centre of the controversy, with nine suspect cases of E. coli diagnosed in the gap between detection and someone finally sounding the alarm.

The patients include four-year-old Sarah Demoskoff, who remains in a Calgary hospital after suffering kidney failure linked to the bacteria.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford urged consumers on Sunday to keep buying the province’s beef; she hasn’t reached out to any of the nine who have fallen ill due to privacy concerns, her staff said.

Smith, speaking on the phone from her home in Minnesota, says the delay in the Canadian recall and outbreak is unacceptable.

“I think that’s just sickening. They need to take this seriously,” she said.

“It can really screw you. I know.” 

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, 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, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time