E. coli Scare Tied to Canadian Beef Spreads to U.S.

U.S. consumers are again being warned that beef imported from Canada could be contaminated with E. coli.   According to its latest update, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Canada’s XL Foods its expanding its previously issued recall to include all beef and beef products produced on August 24, 27, 28, 29 and September 5. FSIS testing of raw boneless beef trim product from Canadian Establishment 038, XL Foods, Inc., confirmed positive for E. coli O157:H7 on September 3, 2012.

According to a report from the Huffington Post, the beef recall now affects some 30 U.S. states.  Some 300 U.S. retail outlets are participating in the recall, including Wal-Mart, Albertson’s and Safeway. Cargill, one of North America’s largest beef processors, also purchased beef trim from XL Foods for products that were sold to a “handful” of U.S. food service customers, according to a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Over 800,000 pounds of XL beef products shipped to the U.S. are linked to the Canadian recall.  The retail distribution list for the recall can be found here.

Alberta-based XL Foods is one of Canada’s largest beef processors.  Nine people in Alberta have reportedly become ill with E. coli from the recalled beef, according to a Reuters report.  No illnesses have been reported in the U.S.

Canadian inspectors have temporarily shuttered one XL plant in Alberta, after finding company officials had not done enough to prevent contamination by E. coli bacteria.  The facility, in Brooks, Alberta, is the largest meat processing plant in Canada.

According to the FSIS, E. coli O157:H7 produces a potentially deadly infection that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.  Symptoms of an E. coli infection include:

  • Severe stomach cramps and stomach tenderness.
  • Diarrhea, watery at first, but often becoming very bloody.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

The most severe cases of E. coli can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a condition that results from the abnormal premature destruction of red blood cell.  HUS can cause life-threatening kidney failure.

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