Canadian Food Safety Alliance

Preventing E. coli at the Source

About the CFSA

The Canadian Food Safety Alliance (CFSA) is committed to protecting public health by promoting a prevention program that reduces human health risks associated with E. coli O157 contamination.

Along with hundreds of Canadians who have experienced the impacts of foodborne illnesses from E. coli O157 contamination, the CFSA is comprised of supporters who range from meat processors to produce associations like the Holland Marsh Growers Association. We continue to attract supporters on an ongoing basis from the agricultural, retail, health and food processing sectors that support a preventative on-farm program to mitigate the impacts of E. coli O157 contamination.

The focus of this Food Safety Alliance is to fight E. coli O157 at the source before manure containing this deadly pathogen is released into the environment. As a federal policy measure, adding an on-farm vaccination program for livestock production would significantly improve the effectiveness of Canada’s food safety measures and provide a new level of protection for consumers from this deadly bacterium.

About E.coli O157

Each year, over 26,000 Canadians are infected with E. coli O157. Food recalls cost producers millions of dollars and too often people die unnecessarily from this preventable illness. Food industry experts and policy makers throughout the world have fought E. coli O157 contamination for many years by introducing a variety of measures at the processing level to combat this deadly bacterium. These measures can be very effective but, despite significant effort and hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the food processing industry, E. coli O157 remains a deadly threat to our food safety in North America and indeed the world.

It is well understood by experts that the primary source of E. coli O157 is from dairy and beef cattle. It is estimated that E. coli O157 is prevalent in as many as half of the cattle herds in North America and, until recently, there have been few effective measures at the “pre-harvest” stage (on the farm) to combat this deadly pathogen.

Once on the ground, E. coli O157 can contaminate ground water, soil and other animals. If other crops such as spinach and lettuce come into contact with this contaminated ground water – often from sources many miles away from the contaminated cattle – then there is a tremendous risk that this pathogen can be absorbed by this produce without anyone ever knowing it. No amount of washing these vegetables will eliminate the E. coli from the products.

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HALIFAX – Public health officials in Nova Scotia knew they were dealing with an outbreak of E. coli five days before they informed the public about it in early January, documents obtained by The Canadian Press show.

The first indication that staff were aware of the E. coli 0157 outbreak appears in two emails sent by the province’s chief medical officer to staff with the Health Department and district health authorities on Dec. 31, 2012.
In one of the emails, Dr. Robert Strang says the Health Department was in the process of gathering more information about the outbreak and officials would meet on Jan. 2 to assess it.

Notes from that day’s meeting, which were released under access-to-information legislation, show that Health Department officials knew there were dealing with seven confirmed cases of E. coli 0157 affecting people ranging in age from 18 to 83.

Those notes also show that six of those people reported eating at fast food restaurants and they showed symptoms of the bacterial infection from Dec. 23-26, 2012. Officials were also aware of an E. coli outbreak of the same strain in New Brunswick but decided to delay notifying the public, the notes show.

“There have been no media calls yet. Until we know what the link is, we will provide standardized messaging,” the notes say.

A case of E. coli infection has been connected to frozen beef burgers recalled by the Canadian division of Safeway grocery stores last week, Canadian health officials announced on Wednesday.

At least one patient in the Regina, Saskatchewan area has fallen ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating a frozen burger under one of two brand names: Gourmet Meat Shoppe or Butcher’s Cut.

Health officials say the patient fell ill before Safeway issued its Feb. 19 recall and is now recovering.

The burgers were sold in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

The known recalled products are the “Gourmet Meat Shoppe Big & Juicy Burger” and the “Gourmet Meat Shoppe Prime Rib Burger” sold in Safeway stores.

Affected products have a best-by date of August 14, 2013.

The recall resulted from an ongoing investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at the producer’s meat plant.


Chicken and ground beef are the riskiest meats, according to a new ranking released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

CSPI’s study, “Risky Meat: A Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety,” ranked 12 categories of meat and poultry based on their outbreak reports and the likelihood of hospitalizations associated with the pathogens most commonly reported in those foods over the past 12 years, from 1998 to 2010. In all, CSPI says they looked at 1,700 outbreaks and 33,000 illnesses and published the report to “inform stakeholders throughout the food chain of steps to minimize risks inherent in these foods.”

The group, which is vocal in advocating for tougher food safety standards, says they released the report to help consumers know which foods carry the greatest risks and to “help them take precautionary steps, such as safer handling and more thorough cooking.” CSPI also wants the industry to take note of its report when companies are designing their food safety plans. CSPI also hopes retail establishments will take note and take extra care to ensure the riskiest products are properly handled.

For its report, CSPI divided 12 categories of meat products into different risk categories by looking at total illnesses, but also by factoring in the severity of illnesses, and creating a pyramid image, based on this ranking.

OTTAWA, ONTARIO—(Marketwired – Jun 5, 2013) – Earlier today, following several months of interviews with a wide variety of government and non-government organizations and individuals, the Independent Expert Advisory Panel submitted our report to Minister Ritz. We are honoured to have been invited by the Governor General in Council to investigate the circumstances leading to the contamination event; evaluate the effectiveness of the responses of the major food safety system partners; and, perhaps most importantly, to provide to the Minister our recommendations for change.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those individuals and organizations who contributed to our work and this review and who demonstrated their commitment to enhancing the food safety system for the benefit of all Canadians.

As noted in our review, the food safety system is complex and many stakeholders have responsibilities to ensure the safety of the food we eat. We heard several times that food safety is not a competitive issue and we believe that to be true. The responsibility for food safety begins with the beef producer, followed by the processor, the retailer, and ultimately, the consumer. Each partner in the food safety system has crucial accountabilities and an important role to play to protect the health and safety of all consumers.