Beef in E. coli scare sold across Canada; CFIA investigating contamination

OTTAWA – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded its health hazard warning about ground beef products from XL Foods of Alberta to more stores and provinces because of concerns about possible dangerous E. coli contamination.

Hamburgers and other ground beef products produced by Edmonton-based XL Foods are now being recalled from grocery stores in Atlantic Canada. The original warning covered some store chains in Ontario, Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The agency hasn’t said exactly how much meat is involved in the warnings or the recall.

“With the regard to the distribution and the area of coverage and the number of retailers who are providing us information on the product, it is fairly extensive,” Garfield Balsom of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday.

Consumers are being warned not to eat, sell or serve the meat products.

Sobeys stores in every province carried the beef, along with Foodland stores in Ontario and Atlantic Canada and Metro stores in Ontario and Quebec. The meat was also available at Giant Tiger locations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

And the list of retailers carrying the beef includes several corporate and franchised stores of Loblaw Companies Ltd., but not Loblaws stores themselves, says the company. It says the stores include locations of Extra Foods, No Frills, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Shop Easy, SuperValu, Real Canadian Superstore, Westfair and Your Independent Grocer from Manitoba to British Columbia. It also includes these stores in Ontario: No Frills, Kenora; Extra Foods in Marathon, Dryden and Geraldton; Real Canadian Superstore in Thunder Bay; and Real Canadian Wholesale Club in Kenora and Thunder Bay.

The CFIA initially said Sunday that the beef was sold under the Kirkland Signature brand, which is carried by Costco stores across Canada. It was also sold under the Safeway brand in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

The agency said there have been no reported illnesses associated with the ground beef.

Food contaminated with E. coli may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses. Some people may have seizures, strokes or suffer kidney damage.

Balsom said an investigation is underway to determine how the beef may have been contaminated.

Michael Lupien, a spokesman for Sobeys stores from Dryden, Ont., to B.C.-Alberta boundary, said the meat was quickly pulled from the shelf.

“There’s a small impact of course to the business and customers have been inconvenienced and not able to get beef that they’re looking for. But we expect to be back up fairly quickly with a different supply,” Lupien said from Edmonton.

Lupien said Sobeys is offering consumers refunds or replacement products.

He did not know how many customers have gone directly to stores with concerns, but said there were about a dozen calls to Sobeys’ call centre in Edmonton on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t call it a stampede, but we did have some customers who’ve contacted us concerned about the product that they’ve purchased,” he said.

Safeway pulled the meat from store shelves Sunday and is telling customers to check too.

“Certainly people have gone ahead and looked into what products they still have in their fridges and freezers, so we have seen a good number of customers coming back into the stores,” Safeway spokeswoman Betty Kellsey said from Calgary.

Safeway was also giving refunds or replacing the meat.

Kellsey said the impact on customers looking to buy ground beef should be minimal.

“Because in many of our stores we do have delivery on a daily basis, we’re able to replace this product with new product and fresh product fairly quickly.”

Note to readers: This is a clarified story. It specifies that the recall does not affect stores called Loblaws, but instead affects some stores of different names that are corporate and franchised stores of Loblaw Companies Ltd.