Public Health Notice: Outbreak of E. coli O157 illness related to beef

Why you should take note
Products contaminated with E. coli O157 can pose a serious public health risk.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with its health and food safety partners on an investigation into illnesses in Alberta that have been linked to XL Foods Inc.
The investigation
Investigations into outbreaks of foodborne illness can be complex. Since September 26, 2012, the Agency has been leading a committee that includes public health and food safety experts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Alberta Health Services. The committee meets regularly to share and review the latest information and determine what actions should be taken to protect Canadians.
On September 28th, 2012, the committee concluded that all the information collected to date - epidemiological, microbiological and food safety - provides strong evidence that four cases of illness in Alberta are linked to products from XL Foods Inc., Establishment 38. At this time, there are no other cases linked to XL Foods Inc., Establishment 38.
More information about products that have been recalled and how that aspect of the investigation has unfolded, including the temporary closure of Establishment 38, is available on the CFIA website.
E. coli O157 foodborne illnesses are not uncommon in Canada and no unusual increases in the number of these illnesses have been detected nationally.
The investigation continues with the partners working together to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
What you should do
Most strains of E. coli are harmless; however, some strains, such as E. coli O157: H7, can make people sick, causing severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Serious complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection can include kidney failure.
If you think you are sick with an E. coli O157:H7 infection, consult a healthcare professional.
Symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection
Like other foodborne illnesses, the symptoms of E. coli infection mainly involve the gut. Symptoms may vary from person to person; however, they often include
  • severe stomach cramps;
  • diarrhea (often watery and may develop into bloody);
  • vomiting; and
  • fever (generally not very high—usually less than 38.5°C/101°F).
Around 5 to 10 per cent of those who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 overall and about 15 per cent of young children and the elderly develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be fatal. Symptoms of HUS vary. Some people have seizures or strokes and some need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis. Others live with side effects such as permanent kidney damage.
Symptoms usually last five to seven days.
Who is most at risk?
Infections can occur among people of all ages, however symptoms are likely to be more severe among the very young and the elderly. Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are also at high risk of developing serious complications.
How to protect yourself
Proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices are key to preventing the spread of all foodborne illnesses, including E. coli.
Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.
Contaminated foods may look and smell normal. It is important to ensure that you thoroughly cook foods to destroy bacteria. Recalled products, however, should not be consumed and should be thrown away.
General food safety
Everyone should practice these general food safety precautions at all times.
Additional information