Alberta E.coli outbreak over

An Alberta Hutterite colony linked to pork products contaminated with E.coli is now up and running again, though at a limited capacity.

Certain pork products sold and distributed by the Meat Shop at Pine Haven colony, located near Wetaskiwin, Alta., are thought to have caused 42 cases of sickness from E.coli O157:H7, according to Alberta Health Services.

Thirteen people who were suspected of consuming the meat required hospitalization, while one died likely due to infection. Much of the meat was sold to stores in the Edmonton area.

In late April, a recall over the meat products was issued and the shop stopped operations for investigative purposes.

The shop is now open, though Alberta Agriculture says it has been operating in a limited capacity.

The shop slaughtered about 15 animals during the last week of May, which is less than usual, said Mike Long, an Alberta Agriculture spokesperson, in an email.

He said the department is still working with the shop, and inspectors must be present if the colony wishes to do more slaughtering, though none have been scheduled.

Long said the shop completed a deep cleanse of the facility, which officials later tested by taking 30 swabs of the equipment and area. All swabs tested negative.

As well, he added that no positve tests of E.coli were found after the shop did a small production run.

While the root cause of the outbreak is still undetermined, he said Pine Haven is co-operating with officials to figure that out. An in-depth review of its activities, records and programs is underway.

While Alberta Health Services considers the outbreak over, it said in a news release that it’s possible additional cases of E.coli could emerge.

The health agency has requested people to check their freezers for any of the products that were recalled. A list of the recalled products can be found at bit.ly/2r00hq6.

“Our thoughts remain with the family of the patient who died and all of those affected by this. We would like to thank our federal and provincial partners for their collaboration on this investigation,” said Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, a medical officer of health for the Edmonton Zone, in a news release.

“We would also like to thank and acknowledge The Meat Shop at Pine Haven and all of the affected businesses for their co-operation.”

As well, the meat shop is facing a $15-million class-action lawsuit, which was filed by law firm James H. Brown & Associates in Edmonton.

The firm said in a previous news release that the lawsuit is on behalf of people who suffered damages by buying or consuming pork products that may have contained E.coli.

A statement of claim seeks compensation for physical injury, mental anguish, medical expenses and lost wages from employment income. These allegations haven’t been proven in court.

While people at Pine Haven were unavailable for comment, Tim Hofer, the facility manager, told The Western Producer in early May he can’t speak to the lawsuit and has been working on a statement of defence.

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