Retailers and consumers are being asked to check their fridges and freezers for beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli after a voluntary recall was issued over the past few days for certain President's Choice beef products.
Steaks, roasts and ground beef trays were identified as contaminated with the virus as part of an expanded investigation that began in the United States last month.
The contaminated beef was processed in April by JBS Swift Beef Company in Greeley, Colorado. The United States Department of Agriculture launched an investigation of these products after 24 people fell ill.
Recently, it was discovered at least 6,700 pounds of beef contaminated with E. coli by the American company was also shipped to Canada, Garfield Balsom, a food safety recall specialist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) told The Guardian newspaper in P.E.I. Thursday.
These products were distributed by Loblaws to stores across Canada. That means Atlantic Superstores and Save Easy locations may have sold the contaminated beef, Balsom said.
"The Loblaws have indicated to us the product was distributed throughout their stores in Atlantic Canada, but we don't have a list of individual stores for each area," he said.
Since the meat was processed in April, none of these products are currently for sale. The contaminated beef, therefore, has mostly already been sold.
"The potential of any product being around is pretty low. Our main reason for the alert is to ensure consumers who may have frozen this to not consume the product," Balsom said.
"However, most of it probably is already consumed."
Inga van den Berg, vice- president of public affairs for Atlantic Superstores' parent company, Loblaws, said Thursday only five cases of President's Choice (PC) top sirloin products from the contaminated plant in the U.S. were shipped to Atlantic Canada. Those cases contained 15 'tender and tasty' beef products, all of which have already been sold.
"That's only 0.05 per cent of our weekly volume," van den Berg said.
"So thankfully the amount of product impacted by this recall is actually quite low."
Loblaws is issuing the recall as a precaution in case people might have stored these products in their freezers. But if consumers do have them, they can return them for a full refund, van den Berg said.
She added that E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can get into food, like beef or vegetables, and the best way to avoid sickness is take proper precautions.
"It's difficult to guarantee that you'll never have E. coli on the surface of beef," she said.
"But everything from washing hands to making sure that beef is refrigerated properly and most importantly to cook the beef at the proper temperatures - when you do then it will destroy the E. coli bacteria."
So far there have been no illnesses in Canada reported as a result of this beef recall.
Food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled. Eating food contaminated with this E-Coli may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Some people may have seizures or strokes and some may need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis. Others may live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.
The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of this recall.
Just the facts:
CFIA list of President's Choice (PC) beef products bearing best before dates April 29 to June 16, 2009, inclusive, affected by this recall:
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak club pack (SKU 20663200000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin beefeater steak (SKU 21040700000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin cap steak (SKU 21040800000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak (SKU 21040900000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin oven roast (SKU 21041000000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak (SKU 20913700000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak club pack (SKU 20296500000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin roast (SKU 20925300000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin c/o beefeater (SKU 20901800000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin cap steak boneless (SKU 20907900000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin cap steak boneless (SKU 21019200000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak (SKU 21019300000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin steak club pack (SKU 20335200000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin c/o beefeater (SKU 21019100000).
PC Tender and Tasty top sirloin oven roast (SKU 21019400000)
For more information on the specific meats recalled, consumers and industry
can call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 or visit its website at