E. coli case in Nanaimo connected to beef recall

A Nanaimo resident is the province's first confirmed case of E. coli linked to the extensive XL Foods beef recall.

A Nanaimo resident is the province’s first confirmed case of E. coli linked to the extensive XL Foods beef recall.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control announced the finding Monday – the 11th E. coli case across Canada connected to the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta.

The individual – identified only as a male from Nanaimo – became ill in mid-September but has now recovered, said Dr. Eleni Galanis, a BCCDC physician epidemiologist.

About a third of all beef sold in Canada is provided by XL Foods and the Nanaimo man had eaten multiple meals with beef in the days prior to his illness, although health officials are unsure what meal his illness is linked to.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, central Island medical health officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said a large amount of beef products were recalled and meat from the affected XL Foods plant is distributed to all the major grocery chains on the Island.

He said most of the recalled products are past their expiry dates now and health officials are asking people to take a look at the recall list, go through their fridges and freezers and throw out or return to the place of purchase any products on that list.

Hasselback said one of the challenges in the beef recall is the number of products added to the recall list after the initial notice went out on Sept. 16.

The list can be accessed at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/phn-asp/ecoli-1012-eng.php.

Besides not eating recalled products, people are reminded to cook raw beef thoroughly, wash hands before and after cooking, keep knives, counters and cutting boards clean, keep raw meats separate from other foods when stored and refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly.

Typical E. coli infection causes mild to severe diarrhea, sometimes bloody, and stomach cramps and usually clears up on its own over the course of a few days, but rare complications can include renal failure and even death.

Symptoms are likely to be more severe among the young children and the elderly and health officials believe many cases go unreported because people do not get sick enough to seek medical attention, Hasselback said.

“We only hear about a fraction of the cases,” he said. “I’m not aware of anyone who’s developed renal complications to date, but it is why we are so concerned about this.”

E. coli was initially detected at the Brooks facility on Sept. 4. The plant remains closed and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began a detailed assessment on Tuesday to determine if the facility has addressed deficiencies uncovered during the agency’s E. coli investigation.

The investigation found several deficiencies in E. coli control measures and sampling and testing procedures.

Galanis said there has been no increase in the number of British Columbians sick due to E. coli bacteria.

In September, 11 infected people were reported and the average number of cases  of E.coli per month is 13.