ARCHIVED - E. coli O157:H7 Food Safety Investigation
Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd. – February 2013

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The investigation has closed.

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 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses associated with the consumption of frozen beef burgers produced at Est. 752, Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd.

Background

On February 13, 2013, the CFIA was notified by public health authorities of two E. coli O157:H7 illnesses potentially linked to The Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burgers sold at Canada Safeway Ltd.

On the same day, the CFIA initiated a food safety investigation to determine the extent of the problem, identify possible products at risk and take necessary measures to protect the public.

On February 19, the CFIA, in collaboration with Canada Safeway Ltd., issued a health hazard alert advising the public not to consume specified beef burger products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.  Cardinal brand Beef Burgers were also recalled from the hotel, restaurant and institution level by Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd.

The CFIA food safety investigation was concluded on March 11, 2013, with a total of three confirmed illnesses reported to be related to the consumption of The Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burgers frozen beef burgers manufactured by Cardinal Meat Specialists.

CFIA Activities

Investigation of Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd.

The CFIA conducted a food safety investigation at Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., Est. 752 that included collection and analysis of production, testing and inspection data

Sampling and Recall Activities

At the outset of the investigation, labels and production codes for possibly implicated products were not available from the consumers' homes to assist in confirming the source of the outbreak or in identifying product for recall.

The CFIA immediately developed and launched a national sampling plan for various frozen burgers, including The Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burgers. A total of 151 retail boxes and 23 food service packages, representing 9 production dates, were sampled. On February 18, 2013, the CFIA laboratory identified 1 positive sample for E. coli O157:H7 in The Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burgers produced on August 14, 2012.

Health Canada conducted a Health Risk Assessment of the affected product and determined that it posed a high health risk (Health Risk 1) to consumers. Recall actions were taken immediately.

On February 19, the CFIA in collaboration with Canada Safeway Ltd. issued a Health Hazard Alert for The Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burgers and The Butcher's Cut beef patties, produced on the same line, with a best before date of August 14, 2013 Cardinal brand Beef Burgers, production code ending with 22712, also produced on the same line were recalled from the hotel, restaurant and institution level by Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd.

Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis (fingerprinting) was conducted on the positive sample of E. coli O157:H7. The result matched the illnesses reported on February 13, 2013 by PHAC.

Source of Contamination

The CFIA food safety investigation focussed on identifying the potential source of E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The CFIA inspectors assessed production information, inspection and testing records; and food safety controls both at the Cardinal Meats Specialists Ltd., and at domestic establishments that supplied raw beef and spice ingredients used in the production of the recalled products. Additional sampling and testing were also conducted where those ingredients were available.

Findings

No food safety deficiencies were identified at Est. 752, Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd. The trace back investigation on the ingredients used in the implicated product did not identify the source of the contamination. E. coli O157:H7 was not detected in any of the samples of spices or domestic beef ingredients tested.

The CFIA was unable to identify the source of the E. coli O157:H7 contamination and the investigation was closed on March 11, 2013.

Related Public Advisories

Additional Information

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