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Alberta officials probe five E. coli infections

No link established to ground-beef recall

Health officials in Alberta say they are investigating five cases of E. coli infections in people, but they are not linking them to an extensive recall of ground beef from major Canadian grocery stores.

Alberta Health Services says four of the infections are in Edmonton and one is in Calgary.

CTV is reporting that a fouryear-old Calgary girl has been in Alberta Children's Hospital since Sept. 11.

The report says Sarah Demoskoff's kidneys have failed and she has had two blood transfusions.

The girl's family says doctors told them the case was linked to a beef recall announced on Monday. The family said Sarah ate pre-packaged ground beef patties and became very sick soon after.

Alberta Health Services will not confirm if she is one of the cases they are looking into.

Alberta investigates between 20 and 25 cases of E. coli each year.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it is not aware of any E. coli cases related to the recall, but it is monitoring the situation.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency first warned on Sunday that ground beef from Edmonton-based XL Foods might contain E. coli. Since then, the list of stores the products were sold in has expanded several times.

"This is ground beef and the ground beef is sold originally in large containers - tubs or larger type of containers - and they go out to retail outlets and various distributors," said the agency's Garfield Balsom.

"The various distributors and retail outlets use these containers and these ground beef products and repack them in their own brands and smaller units," he said.

"We have to identify all these accounts. We have to try to identify for consumers exactly how they receive the product.

"That takes time and that is what we are doing with all of these expanded recalls."

The type of products on the recall list include everything from packaged ground beef and hamburgers to meat loaf, pepperoni, bratwurst and Salisbury steak.

Balsom did not have a total quantity of meat affected by the recall.

"We do know that there was quite a lot of product that went out to the major retailers across the country and many distributors and this is the challenge."

The list includes some of the largest retailers in the country including Sobeys, Co-op, Metro, Foodland, Giant Tiger and several corporate and franchised Loblaws Companies stores including Real Canadian Superstore.

Thrifty Foods, a division of Sobeys, said in a statement Wednesday that beef products found in its stores are not affected by the recall. Thrifty Foods procures its beef products from Cargill of High River, Alta.

Balsom wouldn't say what triggered the recall, citing the ongoing investigation.

On its company website, XL Foods called it a "precautionary measure."

"We are of the view the risk of the product being contaminated is very low; however, our commitment to food safety and our customers guided us to take this action," the company said.