Public Health Notice - E. coli O157:H7 illness related to cheese produced by Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm

Updated November 15 2013

This Notice has been updated to include one additional case of E.coli O157:H7 in British Columbia and to indicate the closing of the investigation.

Why you should take note

Since our last update, one additional case has been reported in British Columbia as part of this investigation. This is not a recent case; the individual became ill in late September. In total, 28 cases were reported as part of this outbreak. Collaborative investigation efforts by provincial and federal health authorities and food regulatory partners confirmed that certain unpasteurised cheese products manufactured by Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, were identified as the source of the illnesses.

Given no new cases have occurred since the end of September, this outbreak appears to be over. The outbreak investigation is now closed.

For a list of affected cheese products, check the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website. Do not eat any of the recalled product. Check your refrigerator and if you have any of the recalled product in your home, return it to the point of purchase or throw it out.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with provincial/territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of E. coli that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Outbreak Summary

A total of 28 cases of illness were reported as part of this outbreak; 13 in British Columbia, 10 in Alberta, 2 in Saskatchewan, 2 in Manitoba and 1 in Quebec. More information about the epidemiological investigation is also available.

More information about products that have been recalled and how the investigation has unfolded is available on the CFIA website.

What you should do

Most strains of E. coli do not cause severe illness; however, some strains, such as E. coli O157:H7, can make people sick, causing strong 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 infection, consult a healthcare professional.

Symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection

Like other food-borne 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).

Symptoms usually last 5 to 10 days.

Overall, around 5 to 10 per cent of those who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), an acute renal failure which can be fatal. Of those, children younger than five years old and the elderly are at greatest risk of developing HUS. 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.

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 food-borne illnesses, including E. coli.

Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of food-borne illness.

General food safety

Everyone should practice these general food safety precautions at all times:

  • Wash your hands before and after cooking;
  • Keep knives, counters and cutting boards clean;
  • Keep raw meats separate from other foods when you store them; and
  • Refrigerate or freeze left-overs promptly.

Additional information

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