A Nanaimo resident is the first person in B.C. and the 11th in Canada confirmed to have been infected with a strain of E. coli linked to the massive beef recall at XL Foods in Alberta.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control made the announcement Monday afternoon, saying the patient - only identified as a male - has fully recovered since falling ill in mid-September.
Patient-confidentiality regulations prevent the release of more information, including his age or the severity of his condition, say health officials.
Lab tests confirmed the patient's illness was caused by the E. coli 0157: H7 strain connected to the largest beef recall in the country's history.
"This shows there is a potential risk in B.C., but it's not a surprise to us," said Dr. Eleni Galanis, epidemiologist with the Centre for Disease Control. XL Foods provides about a third of the beef consumed by British Columbians, she said.
Health officials have not been able to determine the source of the infection found in the Nanaimo patient. Galanis said the person ate beef several times before getting sick.
The Centre for Disease Control is not seeing an increase in reported cases of E. coli.
Confirmations of infections now stretch across the country, hitting nearly a dozen people in four provinces, including Alberta, Newfoundland and Quebec.
To protect against further infections in humans, health officials urge people to cook raw beef thoroughly to at least 71C.
When the source of the meat is in doubt, throw it away, Galanis said.
The beef recall from the Brooks, Alta., plant also continues to expand, with retailers in more than 20 countries returning products to XL Foods, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Monday. That includes about 1.1 million kilograms sold to the U.S.
A small amount of affected products has also been distributed in Hong Kong, said a statement from that country's Centre for Food Safety.
The international response to the recall is a measured one, according to a world beef-trade expert, who helped the industry navigate the mad-cow crisis.
Ted Haney, former president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, said the E. coli situation is fundamentally different from the mad-cow crisis, which saw borders shut to beef exports for years and stripped billions of dollars from the agriculture sector, but had no effect on humans.
Haney urged the CFIA to promote a state of calm and confidence for when the XL Foods plant reopens, "paving the way for a successful return to markets."
Federal food inspectors will again visit the plant today, responding to the company's request to have its licence reinstated after it was pulled last month.
A CFIA audit found a long list of deficiencies, including the unsanitary handling of meat.
The agency said last week that XL Foods had no appropriate plan to handle a late August spike in positive tests for a potentially fatal bacteria.
But the agency struggled to explain why its inspectors didn't stop contaminated products from reaching grocery shelves. firstname.lastname@example.org
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