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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Food recalls and food poisoning outbreaks

Jim Chan

Reprint: April 05, 2017
Food Recall: Robin Hood Flour linked to E.coli Outbreak

Outbreak due to E. coli contamination

One illness confirmed with consuming the flour and 24 other cases being investigated in Canada.

By Dave Dormer, CBC News Posted: Apr 04, 2017 6:36 PM MT Last Updated: Apr 05, 2017 11:31 AM MT
The recall of Robin Hood brand flour linked to an E. coli outbreak has been expanded to the entire country.
The original recall issued last month by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on 10-kilogram bags of flour was limited to B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
One illness has been confirmed from consuming the flour, and 24 other cases are being investigated.
The recall was triggered during an investigation into an outbreak of E. coli O121 that found 25 cases with a matching genetic fingerprint in four provinces — 12 in B.C., four in Alberta, four in Saskatchewan and five in Newfoundland and Labrador.
​Several of those who fell ill reported having contact with Robin Hood flour.
The illness onset dates ranged from November 2016 to late February. Six people were hospitalized but are recovering.
Food inspection agency officials say any 10-kilogram bags of Robin Hood brand all-purpose flour with a best-before date of April 17, 2018 and the production code 6 291 548 should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.
The recalled product's UPC is 0 59000 01652 8.
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.
Food Recalls

Food recalls do not happen every day, but as public health inspectors we learn from every time we have this kind of experience. The following are some examples of food recalled due to food poisoning outbreaks:

Case 1
Processed meat products contaminated with Listeria caused an outbreak in Richmond, Canada. Public health inspectorcollected samples of food and environmental samples from the kitchen for lab examination and Listeria was found in the processed, ready-to-eat pork and beef. Health authority confirmed at least six people have been hospitalized with signs of infection due to Listeria and one of the six died.

Case 2
Deli meat recalled due to Listeria contamination and 45 people dead with 120 total confirmed cases in Canada.

Case 3
Raw bean sprouts recalled due to Salmonella contamination. Over 500 people ill in Ontario Canada.

Case 4

Norovirus outbreak from B.C. oysters makes dozens sick.

Vancouver oyster bar owner expects his business to take a hit, as health 

officials issue warning

By Rafferty Baker, CBC News Posted: Jan 13, 2017 9:40 AM PT Last Updated: Jan 13, 2017 2:20 PM PT

More than 70 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness since early December have been linked to eating raw or lightly-cooked oysters in many parts of the province, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Full article: CBC Canada British Ccolumbia - Oysters-lead-to-dozens-of-cases-of-illness-bccdc-1.3934469

Anatomy of a food recall: The tainted carrot juice case and a Botulism food poisoning outbreak in Toronto, Canada

TORONTO - It was 4:15 p.m. on a warm Friday last October and the beginning of Thanksgiving Day weekend when Jim Chan got the call that would throw the public health department where he works into a state of emergency.

TORONTO - It was 4:15 p.m. on a warm Friday last October and the beginning of Thanksgiving Day weekend when Jim Chan got the call that would throw the public health department where he works into a state of emergency.

The case of two Canadians who were extremely sick in a Toronto hospital and recent reports from the United States that a brand of carrot juice tested positive for botulism were not separate events. The Canadian victims became severely ill after drinking the same California-produced tainted carrot juice that had already made several people sick in the U.S. "The health unit investigated their cases and realized that, 'whoa, this is not a regular recall. This is a recall with illness -- in Canada,' " said Chan, the manager of the food safety program at Toronto Public Health.

Despite the fact a warning about the possibility of botulism in carrot juice had been issued by the Canadian government a week earlier, the product recall was only voluntary. Chan knew there was a good chance the tainted carrot juice was still on sale throughout stores in Canada. He was right. Toronto public health inspectors began scouring the marketplace and found at least 12 stores that were still selling the carrot juice that had been linked to botulism. "It was terrible," Chan said, "because it involved cases where people became very ill, the stress level is quite high. We're talking about product that may contain a toxin and it's still out there on the shelves."

The tainted carrot juice scare is just one of several major food safety nightmares in the past year that have killed, hospitalized or sickened hundreds of people and pets in North America. During food recalls, Chan and his team of public health inspectors become the front-line protectors of public health responsible for removing any rogue products from the marketplace in the hopes of preventing any outbreak of illness. But the size and scope of the food industry means it's often very difficult for officials to be sure potentially dangerous products are quickly removed from store shelves. Food recalls in Canada are voluntary, which means it's up to the company to spread the word to importers and distributors to ensure products are removed from shelves.

The federal government, which regulates food imports in Canada, will alert provincial governments about recalls and, in turn, the provinces alert individual health units in cities across the country. In extreme cases, the government can order a product off the shelf, but in the last seven years only about half a dozen recalls among the thousands implemented have been mandatory.

But every recall is different and presents unique challenges, Chan said. For instance, a company may contact all of the food importers and distributors it deals with to alert them of a recall, but the message about the tainted product may not make it to all of the retail outlets that purchased the product, particularly in cases where a smaller store purchased products in bulk from another retail outlet. "It is a big deal because we cannot control where people buy their goods," Chan said. "Communication is something that we continue to try to improve."

Food recalls can also throw busy health units completely off track and delay important inspections and other work that is done during the normal course of business. In Toronto's case, Chan oversees 79 health inspectors who must inspect 16,000 food premises every year. Even one food recall can create a major disruption, Chan said. "If you have recalls after recalls, the regular is just being postponed," he said. "That means I probably lose production of inspectors for three to four days."

In the case of last year's botulism outbreak, health inspectors worked around the clock for the entire Thanksgiving Day long weekend. Although the outbreak was limited to the two cases in Toronto, it demonstrated the potentially devastating effects one tainted food shipment can have on a population.

"Recalls like this don't happen every day," Chan said. "We learn from every time we have this kind of experience."

Follow the four food safety steps 

(Food safety video - Dr. Justin Beaver)

Related links:
Maple Leaf deli meat contaminated with listeria causing foodborne outbreak

Listeria outbreak linked to Foody World supermarket food

Foodbourne illness in Canada

BBQ Food Safety


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