ARCHIVED - E. coli O157:H7 Investigation: New Food Classics

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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 of significant public interest. This report provides a summary of the CFIA food safety investigation that followed notification of an E. coli O157:H7 illness linked to beef burgers manufactured by New Food Classics in Saskatoon. The CFIA food safety investigation resulted in the recall of large volumes of ground beef products from the market. There was one reported illness associated with the consumption of one of the affected products.

Establishment 761, New Food Classics

On February 13, 2012, the CFIA launched a food safety investigation following the notification from Alberta Health of an E. coli O157:H7 illness. The suspected cause of the illness was ground beef burger manufactured by Establishment 761, New Food Classics, in Saskatoon, SK.

The CFIA collaborated with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), provincial and local health authorities and Health Canada as it carried out its food safety investigation.

On February 18, 2012, the CFIA and New Food Classics warned the public not to consume certain products made at Establishment 761, due to concerns that they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Following this first food recall, the CFIA food safety investigation continued and identified more samples of meat products from the establishment that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. As a result, additional health hazard alerts were issued between February 18, 2012 and March 26, 2012 advising the public not to consume any ground beef products produced by Establishment 761 as the products may have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The CFIA also verified that no affected product remained in the marketplace. On May 10, 2012, the CFIA provided additional information to the public to clarify the lot codes of six previously recalled products after new information was brought forward by the distributor.

The last day of production at the New Foods Classics facility was on February 16, 2012. The company went into receivership for reasons unrelated to the food safety investigation.

CFIA Food Safety Investigation

Action

As part of the food safety investigation, the CFIA undertook an in-depth review of the establishment's operations and controls including sources of ingredients for the product, and conducted its own sampling of finished product to determine the extent of any potential food safety risk.

The CFIA's in-depth establishment review included:

  • operating protocols
  • cleaning and sanitation practices
  • processing and packaging of product
  • ingredient, product and environmental test results for foodborne pathogens

During the food safety investigation, Establishment. 761, New Food Classics, closed its operation and went into receivership. Once operations ceased, the CFIA completed the food safety investigation with the cooperation of the appointed receiver.

Findings

The food safety investigation did not identify the root cause of the contamination. The plant shutdown proved to be a complicating factor as food safety procedures could not be observed in action. During the CFIA investigation, testing found multiple positive samples of E. coli O157:H7 from various production days. As samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, related production dates and product codes were verified and recalled from the marketplace.

In addition to the multiple positive results for E. coli O157:H7 in various lot codes of beef products, the plant testing records revealed a pattern of elevated levels of generic E. coli. This situation was indicative of a potentially larger extent of E. coli O157:H7 contamination in ground beef produced at Establishment 761. The information was presented to Health Canada for a Health Risk Assessment. As a result of the assessment, all ground beef products manufactured between July 1, 2011 and February 16, 2012, at Establishment 761 were recalled on March 17. This was a measure to protect consumers from potentially contaminated products on the market.

Outcome

All findings of the CFIA food safety investigation were presented to Health Canada for Health Risk Assessments and resulted in the company recalling large volumes of ground beef products from the market.

Related Alerts

Additional Information

For information on all food recalls, visit the complete listing of all recalls and allergy alerts.

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