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Illnesses lead to warning over Edmonton store’s steaks

Several people became ill after eating an Edmonton store’s steaks that may contain E. coli bacteria, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said on Wednesday.

The announcement follows a series of beef product recalls that have raised concerns about meat processing standards in Canada.

The CFIA on Wednesday warned the public not to eat Kirkland brand beef steaks sold between Sept. 4 and 7 at the Costco Wholesale Corp. store on 50th Street in Edmonton.

The agency has not identified the supplier of the potentially contaminated beef, said CFIA spokesman Tim O’Connor.

The agency said in its release Wednesday that it’s "working with the manufacturer to have the affected products removed from the marketplace."

One of the suppliers to the store is XL Foods’ plant at Brooks, Alta., east of Calgary. Beginning in early September, privately-held XL Foods has voluntarily recalled more than 250 beef products made at the plant after positive findings of E. coli.

E. coli bacteria can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

XL Foods issued a statement Wednesday evening saying it is "deeply concerned" for the people who became ill, adding that there has been no definitive link between its products and the cases of illness.

XL said it’s working with the CFIA and Alberta Health Services to "understand more about the recall of steaks that the CFIA has indicated caused illness."

The company also said it will "continue to keep customers and consumers informed as investigation findings become available."

"Self-police themselves"

The United States halted imports of beef products from the XL Foods plant in Brooks, which is one of the largest in Canada, on Sept. 13. XL bought the Lakeside Packers facility in 2009 from U.S. meat packing giant Tyson Foods.

The CFIA recently completed its review of the Brooks plant’s food safety controls and found XL Foods could not demonstrate that it regularly updated its plan to control E. coli in the facility, the agency said.

A federal public sector union chief on Wednesday described the XL Foods recall as "the perfect example of why we need to keep and strengthen food inspection.

"As a former meat inspector, I’ve seen first hand how CFIA has slowly allowed the meat industry to self-police themselves," Bob Jackson, the B.C. regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said in a release.

"The public would prefer a federally-appointed inspector — independent from the industry — inspect and monitor the meat that ends up on their plates."

— Reporting from Reuters with files from Network staff.

Related stories:
Silence isn’t golden when it comes to meat safety (blog), Sept. 26, 2012
U.S. bans Alta. plant’s beef on E. coli findings, Sept. 25, 2012
Food inspection budget cuts for CFIA jeered, Jan. 19, 2012

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