What we know about all the recent flour recalls for E. coli
infotel.ca, by Charlotte Helson, June 16, 2017
OKANAGAN - If you had Rogers or Robin Hood brand flour in your cupboard recently, you might have some questions about a series of recalls over the past few months.
At the end of March, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recalled Robin Hood brand all purpose flour due to possible E. coli contamination. In subsequent weeks, various flour and flour products produced by Ardent Mills were also recalled due to possible E. Coli contamination. The original Robin Hood recall was also updated to included an expanded listing of affected products.
Then, on June 7, Rogers Foods Ltd., which has mills in Armstrong and Chilliwack, recalled its all purpose flour due to possible E. coli contamination.
Despite the timing and the fact that all recalls relate to possible E. coli contamination, the two agencies investigating the outbreaks say they aren’t all connected.
With respect to the Rogers and Robin Hood cases, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the two outbreaks were actually caused by different strains of E. coli and there is currently no evidence to suggest they are linked.
The centre did not provide an expert for an interview, but supplied written information to iNFOnews.ca. In an email, the centre says there are five cases of E. coli associated with the Rogers flour investigation. The investigation is ongoing.
Mark Hubbard, spokesperson for Rogers Foods, says the recall was issued out of an abundance of caution and called the incident isolated. Anyone who purchased a bag of flour affected by the recall has been refunded, he says.
“Our customers have been very understanding about what has occurred despite the inconvenience,” he says.
In general, Hubbard says people are seeing more recalls simply due to better monitoring of the system by food inspection agencies.
“There are new recalls issued every day. That didn’t happen two decades ago, or even one decade ago,” he says.
It’s a trend he supports fully.
“Any time consumers are more aware, it’s good news,” Hubbard says.
He says the flour recalls specifically are a good reminder that you should never consume raw flour.
“It was a hard lesson for me. I really like to lick the spoon when it comes to making cookies, but you really should not be eating raw dough,” he says.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also highlighting that message.
“Flour is not a ready-to-eat food and should not be consumed raw. E. coli is known to live naturally in the intestines of cattle, poultry and other animals,” the inspection agency says in an email.
The wheat used to mill flour is an agricultural product that, while being grown or handled in the fields, might have come into contact with the ground, which may have been fertilized with manure or subjected to traffic from animals, the agency states.
“The CFIA is currently analyzing information on this risk from a range of sources, including scientific literature, other countries, and partners to inform decisions on what actions will help to prevent this in the future. The Government of Canada and the grain industry are committed to working together to protect Canadians from outbreaks associated with E. coli.”
Unlike Rogers, the Ardent Mills and Robin Hood flour recalls are part of the same investigation. In total, there were 30 cases of E.coli with a matching genetic fingerprint including 13 in British Columbia, four in Saskatchewan, five in Alberta, one in Ontario, one in Quebec and five in Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the 30 cases was a visitor to Canada. The illness onset dates ranged from November 2016 to April 2017. Eight individuals were hospitalized. No deaths were reported. The investigation has now been closed.
Anyone with a product on the recall list is advised to return or toss the item. If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.