Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 01, 2012 - 8:47 am

North West Co. reacts to Alberta tainted beef scare

Northern retailer offers refunds to anyone who returns bad beef

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Ground beef pours out of a machine at meat processing facility in the United States. Improperly handled beef can lead to contamination with the E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, which causes hamburger disease. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MARLERBLOG)
Ground beef pours out of a machine at meat processing facility in the United States. Improperly handled beef can lead to contamination with the E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, which causes hamburger disease. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MARLERBLOG)

The North West Co, operator of numerous Northern and Northmart retail stores across the three territories, including Nunavut, and communities in the northern regions of provinces, said Sept. 29 that it has removed from sale all products manufactured at a controversial XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta.

Those products include fresh ground beef, fresh beef cuts and vacuum packed fresh beef, North West Co. said in a statement.

“Customers who have purchased any of these potentially affected items from any of our stores can return them to us for a full refund with or without receipt,” the company said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has temporarily suspended XL Foods’ operating licencing after nine Alberta residents become sick with symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, or hamburger disease.

The beef recall has been expanded to include virtually all food retailers in Canada, including the Northwest Co.’s Northern, Northmart and Giant Tiger stores.

It includes all “case ready” batches of lean and regular ground beef in .5 and 1.13 kg packages sold between Sept. 9 and Sept. 23.

The recall also includes a long list of beef products sold at co-op stores across the country, including the northern territories.

And the recall also extends to Marché Metro stores in Quebec, some of which supply air-freighted groceries to customers in Nunavik and the Baffin region.

The symptoms of E. coli infection, also known as hamburger disease, include bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headaches, with little or no fever.

In patients with weak immune systems, such as young children, hamburger disease can lead to permanently damaged kidneys and sometimes death.

E. coli is a bacteria that occurs naturally in the bowels of cattle. When beef is mishandled at slaughter houses and meat-packing plants, the bacteria can be transferred to meat products.

Cooking meat all the way through at a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit can kill the bacteria. Consumers are urged to wash their hands and clean all food utensils and work areas after handling raw beef and beef patties.

The CFIA advises that anyone in doubt about any beef they may have purchased recently should throw it out.

The contaminated meat was first discovered in Montana Sept. 3 by inspectors from the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Canadian officials began an investigation of the XL Foods plant Sept. 4, and on Sept. 13 removed the company from a list of firms eligible to export meat to the United States.

But the Canadian Food Inspections Agency and XL Foods did not issue a public recall until Sept. 16.

And on Sept. 25, Alberta Health Services announced that four Alberta residents infected with E. coli had bought bad steaks from XL Foods that had been supplied to a Costco store on 50th street in Edmonton.

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