Two days after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) warned about another or related outbreak linked to the Cardinal Meat plant in Ontario, the rapid response folks at the Public Health Agency of Canada decided to say, yes, two more people had been sickened with E. coli O157:H7, bringing the total to seven.
And that’s all they said.
Fortunately, Matt McClure of the Calgary Herald had already done lots of digging and revealed two days earlier that not only were there additional illnesses, but that a death was related to product from the same plant.
The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed Wednesday that testing has shown the two outbreaks share a similar, but slightly different genetic fingerprint – a potential sign that they were caused by a common source of E.coli contamination.
“Work is underway to assess if and how these two situations may be linked,” CFIA said in a written statement.
Cardinal president Brent Cator said although the firm conducts random tests of the beef trim it uses to make burgers and every 500 kg of finished product, Cator said he depends on the food safety programs of the meat packers that supply his grinding facility.
Back in Dec., Cator, told the Herald his company makes frozen patties using beef trim from various Canadian and international processors that has been certified as free from E. coli O157:H7. However, he refused to identify the sources of the meat used in the recalled burgers.
Unwilling to tell consumers where their food comes from? Don’t buy it.
In Dec., McClure says, some food safety experts criticized the federal agency for waiting nearly two months to recall product after it had positive test results from patients with food histories that pointed to frozen burgers from Cardinal.
Oh, and by the way, McClure got PHAC to admit there was another patient who actually died in early December after being infected with the same strain of E. coli as the one found in the recalled burgers.
Officials at the federal health agency had said that the DNA fingerprint in those cases had never been seen before in North America and was strong evidence all the patients got sick from eating the same product.
But PHAC’s website now says those test results weren’t enough proof to say the fatality was caused by a tainted burger.
Canadians will apparently tolerate anything.