Public Health Notice: Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi

This notice has been updated to reflect that the outbreak appears to be over and the outbreak investigation has been closed.

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Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) collaborated with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections involving 2 provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan. The outbreak appears to be over and the outbreak investigation has been closed.

Investigation findings identified exposure to Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi as the source of the outbreak.

The CFIA issued food recall warnings on January 28, 2022 and February 6, 2022 for Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi with best before dates of January 23, 2022 and January 29, 2022. Both products were sold in 2L containers with a net weight of 1670 g, and UPC code 6 23431 00030 4. The recalled products were distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Investigation summary

In total, 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of E.coli O157 illness were linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: Alberta (13) and Saskatchewan (1).

Individuals became sick between early December 2021 and early January 2022. No deaths or hospitalizations were reported. Individuals who became ill were between 0 and 61 years of age. The majority of cases (64%) were female.

The CFIA issued food recall warnings on January 28, 2022 and February 6, 2022 for Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi. The recalled products were distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Who is most at risk

E. coli O157 is more likely to cause severe illness than other strains of E. coli. Pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

Most people who become ill from an E. coli infection will recover completely on their own. However, some people may have a more serious illness that requires hospital care or causes long-lasting health effects. In rare cases, some individuals may develop life-threatening complications, including stroke, kidney failure and seizures, which could result in death. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

What you should do to protect your health

The following advice applies to individuals, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and long-term care homes, across Canada:

Symptoms

People infected with E. coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. In some cases, individuals become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

Most symptoms end within five to ten days. There is no real treatment for E. coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, such as dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health of Canadians from enteric disease outbreaks.

PHAC leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

CFIA conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

Epidemiological information

Figure 1 is an epidemiological curve for this outbreak, which shows the numbers of new cases by week. Outbreak investigators use this information to show when illnesses begin, when they peak, and when they trail off. It can take several weeks from the time a person becomes ill to when the illness is reported and testing confirms a link to the outbreak. Data are available for 14 cases.

Figure 1. Number of people infected with E. coli O157:H7
Figure - Text description
Table 1 - Number of people confirmed to be infected with E. Coli O157 by week of illness onset or specimen collection
Week of symptom onset or specimen collection Number of cases
2021-11-28 0
2021-12-05 1
2021-12-12 5
2021-12-19 4
2021-12-26 3
2022-01-02 1
2022-01-09 0

Additional information

Investigation history

Public Health Notice: February 8, 2022

This notice has been updated to reflect an additional food recall warning issued on February 6 for Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi with a best before date of January 23, 2022.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections involving 2 provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Based on the investigation findings to date, the outbreak is linked to Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi. Many of the individuals who were sick reported having eaten Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi before their illnesses occurred.

The CFIA issued food recall warnings on January 28, 2022 and February 6, 2022 for Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi with best before dates of January 23, 2022 and January 29, 2022. Both products are sold in 2L containers with a net weight of 1670 g, and UPC code 6 23431 00030 4. The recalled products were distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba

For more information on the recalled products, please consult CFIA's website. The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

Do not eat, use, sell, or serve the recalled kimchi or any products made with the recalled kimchi. This advice applies to individuals, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and long-term care homes, across Canada.

This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of February 8, there have been 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of E.coli O157 illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: Alberta (13) and Saskatchewan (1).

Individuals became sick between early December 2021 and early January 2022. No deaths or hospitalizations have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 61 years of age. The majority of cases (64%) are female.

The CFIA issued food recall warnings on January 28, 2022 and February 6, 2022 for Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi products. The recalled products were distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

Public Health Notice: January 29, 2022

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections involving 2 provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Based on the investigation findings to date, the outbreak is linked to Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi. Many of the individuals who were sick reported having eaten Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi before their illnesses occurred.

The CFIA issued a food recall warning on January 28, for Hankook (Korean characters only)  brand Original Kimchi sold in 2L containers with a net weight of 1670 g, UPC code 6 23431 00030 4, and best before date January 29, 2022. The recalled product was distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. 

For more information on the recalled product, please consult CFIA’s website. The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

Do not eat, use, sell, or serve the recalled kimchi or any products made with the recalled kimchi. This advice applies to individuals, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and long-term care homes, across Canada.

This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of January 28, there have been 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of E.coli O157 illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: Alberta (13) and Saskatchewan (1).

Individuals became sick between early December 2021 and early January 2022. No deaths or hospitalizations have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 61 years of age. The majority of cases (64%) are female.

The CFIA issued a food recall warning on January 28 for certain Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Kimchi products. The recalled product wasdistributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

Media contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983
media@hc-sc.gc.ca

Public inquiries

Call toll-free: 1-866-225-0709
Email: info@hc-sc.gc.ca

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