Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

June 28, 2009 02:27 ET

Health Unit Reports Three Cases of E. coli O157:H7 in London

LONDON, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 28, 2009) -

The following alert was issued today by the London, Ontario Public Health Unit. CFIA is working with the London Public Health to investigate this issue to determine possible source of contamination.

http://www.healthunit.com/article.aspx?id=14980

Over the last five days, the Middlesex-London Health Unit has received reports of three children with E. coli O157:H7. To receive three laboratory confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 in such a short timeframe is unusual. In two of these cases, the common food consumed was kofta (spiced ground beef) purchased on June 14 and 15 from the Westmount Halal Food Store located at 490 Wonderland Road South. The source of the third child's infection is currently unknown. This child's family also eats halal food but did not purchase any food from the Westmount Halal Food Store.

The public is being advised to:

- Not eat any ground beef or kofta purchased from the Westmount Halal Food Store between June 2 and today. The store is prepared to refund any customer who purchased these products.

- Contact the Health Unit (519-663-5317 ext. 2330, after hours 519-675-7523) and their healthcare provider if they have developed symptoms of severe or bloody diarrhea since June 2.

- Contact the Health Unit if they have any ground beef or kofta purchased from the Westmount Halal Food Store between June 2 and today in their home.

- Ensure that all meat is cooked to the appropriate temperature. Ground beef is a particular risk for E. coli O157:H7 infection because the grinding process can spread the bacteria all through the meat. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 degrees C (160 degrees F) - determined using a digital thermometer.

People with diarrhea caused by E. coli O157:H7 should:

- Not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for at least one week afterwards;

- Not work as food handlers, childcare workers or healthcare providers or attend a childcare centre until they have provided two stool samples that indicate the bacteria is gone;

- Wash their hands thoroughly using pump soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after using the bathroom or after changing the diaper of a baby with symptoms of the infection.

E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterial infection that causes symptoms which include abdominal pain and mild to severe diarrhea that can also be bloody. Occasionally, infected people can have no symptoms at all. The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms (incubation period) ranges from 2 to 10 days, most commonly between 3 and 4 days. In a small percentage of individuals, a complication of E. coli O157:H7, called hemolytic uremic syndrome, can develop. This syndrome can cause kidney, blood and neurological problems. Antibiotics should NOT be used for the treatment of E. coli O157:H7 as this can increase the chances of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Infection with E. coli O157:H7 can be acquired by eating ground beef that has not been properly cooked, or from consuming contaminated produce, drinking water or unpasteurized milk. E. coli O157:H7 can also spread from person to person when fecal matter gets on the hands after using the washroom or changing diapers. Hand washing with pump soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after these activities is essential.

General food handling precautions to prevent the spread of E. coli O157:H7 and other infections include:

- Careful hand washing after touching raw meats and after using the washroom or changing diapers;

- Ensuring juices from raw meats do not contaminate work surfaces;

- Cleaning surfaces that come into contact with raw meat using soap and water and then disinfecting with bleach;

- Keeping foods out the danger temperatures where bacteria grow. Hot foods should be held at temperatures above 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) and cold foods should be held a temperatures below 4 degrees C(40 degrees F);

- Ensuring that meat is cooked to the proper internal temperature - determined by using a digital thermometer. For ground beef, this temperature is 71 degrees C (160 degrees F).

For more information on food safety at home, visit www.healthunit.com/safefoodathome.aspx.

Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Middlesex-London Health Unit
    Dan Flaherty
    Communications Manager
    (519) 663-5317 ext. 2469 or (519) 617-0570 (cell)
    or
    Spokesperson:
    Middlesex-London Health Unit
    Dr. Bryna Warshawsky
    Associate Medical Officer of Health