Burger recall widens as E. coli illnesses investigated

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A handful of people sickened by E. coli O157 bacteria in Ontario and Alberta has led to expanded recalls of retail frozen beef burgers coming from a Toronto-area processor.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Loblaw on Friday warned the public not to consume Butchers Choice hickory barbecue beef burgers, sold at retail nationally with a "best before" code of Feb. 10 (2013 FE 10).

CFIA on Thursday issued a similar warning on Butcher’s Choice garlic peppercorn beef burgers with a "best before" date of March 3 (2013 MR 03), also distributed nationally.

CFIA is also running a food safety investigation at the Cardinal Meat Specialists processing plant (Establishment 752) at Brampton, Ont. Preliminary results from agency testing have turned up two "presumptive positives" for E. coli O157:H7 in one lot of frozen hamburgers from the plant, CFIA said.

The investigation and recalls follow a finding of a "small cluster" of O157-related illnesses in Ontario and Alberta, which the Public Health Agency of Canada on Dec. 5 told CFIA could potentially be linked to the Butcher’s Choice garlic peppercorn burgers.

However, CFIA said Thursday, its "initial review" of inspection reports and company documents hasn’t turned up any issues with the Cardinal plant’s O157 control measures. The Brampton plant also has no outstanding corrective action requests, CFIA said.

CFIA "will take immediate action in response to any issues of concern at the establishment," the agency added.

Cardinal, a family-owned operation that began producing ready-made burgers for restaurants and small retailers at Mississauga in 1966, was making 3.6 million patties per week by 2010.

The company launched its "Butcher-style" burgers in 2008, after becoming the first beef processor in North America to adopt the equipment it uses for its "Natural Texture" ground beef forming proces.

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