E. coli Outbreak in Canada


By JoAnn Alumbaugh, Editor, PORK Network

March 16, 2017


The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli, called E.coli O121. According to the agency, the source of the outbreak has not been identified, and the investigation is ongoing.


“The risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness,” it said in a public health notice this week.


“There have been 24 cases of E. coli O121 with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in four provinces: British Columbia (12), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (3) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5),” PHAC said. “The illness onset dates range from November 2016 to February 2017. Six individuals have been hospitalized. These individuals have recovered or are recovering. The investigation into the source of the outbreak is ongoing.”


Two of the most common ways to come into contact with E. coli are by improperly handling raw ground meat and by eating ground meat that is undercooked. Common sources of E.coli may also be contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, untreated water, unpasteurized milk and raw milk products, and unpasteurized apple juice or cider.


While most people made ill by E. coli experience a few days of upset stomach and then recover fully, infections can sometimes be life threatening.


Doug Powell, who writes a cryptic food-safety blog, was critical of how the situation has been handled: