ARCHIVED - E. coli O157:H7 Food Safety Investigation
Belmont Meats – September 2013

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is committed to the continued improvement of Canada's food safety system. The CFIA is also dedicated to reporting on food safety incidents that have caused serious illnesses in Canada or have otherwise significant interest to the Canadian public.

This report provides a summary of the food safety investigation and recall activities conducted by the CFIA after receiving notification of Escherichia coli O157:H7 illnesses associated with the consumption of burgers produced by Belmont Meats, Establishment 112.

Background

On September 27, 2013, Public Health Ontario (PHO) notified the CFIA of an E. coli O157:H7 cluster of illnesses in Ontario. Preliminary epidemiological information that was gathered by PHO suggested that Compliments brand Super 8 beef burgers manufactured by Belmont Meats, Establishment 112 were the potential source of these illnesses.

The CFIA initiated a food safety investigation at Belmont Meats on September 27, 2013 to examine the facility, identify possible products at risk and take the necessary measures to protect the public.

On October 2, 2013, the CFIA in collaboration with Belmont Meats issued a health hazard alert advising the public not to consume certain Compliments brand Super 8 beef burgers because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

The CFIA food safety investigation was concluded on November 8, 2013. No food safety concerns were identified during the investigation at either Belmont Meats or their meat suppliers that could identify potential sources of the contamination. Belmont Meats is currently working to address other administrative, non-food safety related issues of non-compliance within accepted timelines. A total of 11 confirmed illnesses from two distinct clusters were reported to be related to the consumption of certain Compliments brand Super 8 beef burgers.

CFIA Activities

Investigation of Belmont Meats

The CFIA food safety investigation into Belmont Meats was guided by preliminary epidemiological information and included the collection of samples and analysis of production, testing and inspection data. Health Canada subsequently used this information to support its health risk assessment. The Agency did not identify any food safety deficiencies at the facility.

Sampling and Recall Activities

Because the epidemiological investigation did not identify specific lot codes of Compliments brand Super 8 beef burgers potentially implicated with these illnesses, the CFIA initially sampled and tested all twelve lot codes of Super 8 burgers produced by Belmont Meats in 2013. Of these twelve lot codes, the CFIA reported four positive samples for E. coli O157:H7 that were produced on May 11, July 5, August 27 and September 4, 2013. Three of the positive results had genetic fingerprints identical to the main outbreak strain while the other positive result had a genetic fingerprint identical to another cluster of illnesses.

Once Health Canada had completed a health risk assessment request by the CFIA for, Belmont Meats initiated a voluntary recall on October 2, 2013 of all twelve lot codes of Super 8 beef burgers produced in 2013.

The CFIA continued to trace back the origins of all four E. coli O157:H7 positive results, sampling burger ingredients and finished burger products that contained the same or similar ingredients used to manufacture the Super 8 burgers that tested positive. The CFIA reported two additional positive samples produced on August 26 and September 4, 2013, prompting the recall to be expanded on October 20 and 22, 2013. These two positive products and their associated genetic fingerprints, however, were not associated with any known illnesses. The CFIA conducted further tests on products to make sure that no other affected product was on the market.

In total, the CFIA tested over two thousand samples of Super 8 beef burgers; no additional positive results were reported.

Source of Contamination

Despite extensive testing, the CFIA could not determine the source of the contamination. In addition, the Agency did not determine any food safety concerns during its investigation at either Belmont Meats or their meat suppliers.

In addition, there were no additional illnesses or epidemiological information that could help focus the investigation on specific ingredients, suppliers or events that may have caused these illnesses.

Follow-up

Belmont Meats is working to address various non-food safety related issues of non-compliance within accepted timelines.

Related Public Advisories

Additional Information

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