Canada E Coli Beef Recall (Costco) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Friday, June 23, 2000

Company recalls meat that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria

by SHOWWEI CHU-- The Canadian Press

An Alberta-based meat packer recalled more than 77,000 kilograms of ground beef Friday after a supermarket chain discovered a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria in a batch of meat.

The recall covers raw hamburger but mainly affects secondary products such as prepared patties that are sold in all provinces except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, Lakeside Packers said in a news release Friday.

The company, a wholesaler to restaurants, retailers and distributors in Canada and the U.S., said it recalled all the meat processed at its plant in Brooks, Alta., on May 31.

"In an abundance of caution, we're conducting this recall," said Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Lakeside, a subsidiary of U.S. based IBP Inc.

Costco Wholesale Group, one of the company's 100-plus retail customers, found traces of E .coli 0157:H7 during a random test from its supermarket shelves Thursday.

The bacteria is the same strain that poisoned the water supply in Walkerton, Ont., last month, killing at least seven residents and sickening 2,000 more.

A number of brand names puchase meat from Lakeside and process it into products like hamburger patties, meat pies, pizza and lasagna.

These products are then sold to grocers or restaurants before being sold to indivudual customers, making the tainted meat difficult to trace, said Mickelson.

Because the hamburger has an 18-day shelf life, it's unlikely that any raw meat from the May 31 batch remains in stores, Mickelson said from Lakeside's head office in Dakota Dunes, S.D.

"The vast majority of the affected product is further processed by grocers or restaurants before being sold to consumers," he said.

"There is no brand name, product code or production lot number for consumers to check on meat in their refrigerator."

He warned the public to thoroughly cook all ground beef products to avoid becoming ill.

"There's no danger as long as (people) properly handle their meat," Mickelson said.

No illnesses linked with the tainted meat were reported Friday but many doctors and hospitals were alerted and were watching for any E. coli-related symptoms.

E. coli 0157:H7 can become a life-threatening illness by producing a toxin that breaks down the lining of the intestines and damages the kidneys.

It is particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Those affected may exhibit flu-like symptoms, bloody diaharrea, and dehydration.

Meat can become tainted when animals are slaughtered at processing plants. During evisceration of animal intestines, fecal matter may spill over and contaminate other parts of the animal.

On Friday Lakeside's parent IBP, one of the largest meat packers in North America, recalled a further 120,000 kilograms of ground beef, produced on May 13, in 25 U.S. states.

Lakeside recently underwent a $300 million expansion, and expects to supply over one-third of Canada's total beef production by the end of next year.

Earlier Friday, Costco and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency alerted the public to the problem with their own voluntary recall of about 10,000 kilograms of beef supplied by Lakeside from 30 Costco locations in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

"We're just trying to understand where maybe something went wrong," Jean Kamanzi, head of agency's microbiology program, said.

While the food agency monitors the meat industry to make sure it follows guidelines on how to produce safe meat products, the responsibility of food safety ultimately lies with the industry, said Kamanzi.

Many supermarkets, including Costco, conduct more tests during the summer months because more people eat hamburger during that time of year.

The food agency confirmed Lakeside's caution that the recalled products are safe if cooked thoroughly at 71 C.

"If you cook your hamburger thoroughly, you kill all the bacteria, including this one," Kamanzi said. "Even this strain is sensitive to heat."

Earlier this week, a Quebec-based grocery chain recalled ground beef sold at more than 25 of its stores after three people became ill from E. coli bacteria.

Provincial government labs found that two samples of hamburger had the bacteria.

The meat was sold at Maxi and Maxi Cie stores in the Montreal area, in the Outaouais region and in Rimouski.

The company has recalled hamburger sold between May 20 and June 19.

The E. coli came from carcasses contaminated during slaughter, the company said in newspapers advertisements.

-- Rachel Gibson (, June 23, 2000

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