The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) expanded a nationwide recall on beef Monday over fears that more products may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria than originally thought.
Last week, the agency temporarily suspended the operating license of Alberta-based meatpacking company XL Foods, the largest Canadian meat processing company, effectively shutting down its operations until the source of the bacterial contamination could be found and eliminated.
The Canadian recall now encompasses more than 300 beef products, including steaks, roasts, ground beef, and sausage sold in a various outlets under various brand names and no-name brands.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials first discovered the contaminated beef during a border check on September 3, a day before Canadian officials found a problem. The U.S. issued its first public notice on September 20 in an effort to alert consumers who may have already purchased some of the affected products in U.S. stores.
Washington, DC-based advocacy group Food & Water Watch criticized the USDA for taking more than 17 days to notify U.S. consumers of the “potential public health crisis on their hands” and also for its delay in issuing a recall even though its Canadian counterpart had already recalled the beef products there.
USDA officials say the contaminated beef has gone out to stores in 30 states and Puerto Rico. Retail outlets that received the suspect products include Walmart and Sam’s Club, Safeway, Kroger, Jay C, FoodsCo, Food4Less, and Albertson’s.
U.S. officials have not conclusively linked the tainted beef products with food-borne illnesses in the U.S., but Alberta Health Service officials are investigating nine illnesses in Canada that could be tied to the beef. So far, they have only been able to verify that four patients in Edmonton were sickened after eating Kirkland brand strip loin steaks bought at a Costco outlet in Edmonton.
Ingesting E. coli bacteria can lead to severe gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dehydration, fever, body aches, and other symptoms are among some of the other symptoms. E. coli and other food-borne illnesses may be especially dangerous to the very young, elderly, and anyone who has a weakened immune system.