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

Updated December 21, 2012 – This outbreak appears to be over.

In total, 18 cases were reported as part of this outbreak. The last reported case became ill on October 15, 2012; no new cases of related illness have been reported since.

Collaborative investigation efforts by provincial and federal health authorities and food regulatory partners confirmed the source of this outbreak to be beef from XL Foods Inc.The product was recalled and the outbreak appears to be over.

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.

It remains important that Canadians not eat any of the recalled beef products . Check your freezer and if you have recalled products in your home, return them to the store, or throw them out.


Updated November 14, 2012

Why you should take note

Products contaminated with E. coli O157 can pose a serious public health risk.

To date, the Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with its health and food safety partners on an investigation into E. coli O157 illnesses that have been linked to the food safety investigation at XL Foods Inc.

Today, one additional case of E. coli O157 illness under investigation in Alberta has been confirmed to be the same specific strain of E. coli O157 observed in the XL Foods Inc. food safety investigation. This individual became ill mid-October and is recovering.


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 Provincial and Territorial Health Authorities. The committee meets regularly to share and review the latest information and determine what actions should be taken to protect Canadians.

Based on all the information collected to date—epidemiological, microbiological and food safety—the following cases of illness are linked to the specific strain of E. coli O157 observed in the XL Foods Inc., food safety investigation. More information about the epidemiological investigation is also available.

Province / Territory Total confirmed cases
  Alberta 8
  Newfoundland and Labrador 1
  Quebec 6
  British Columbia 3Table 2 - Footnote *
  Total 18

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.

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).

Symptoms usually last five to seven days.

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.

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

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