Public Health Notice - Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to various flours and flour products

Friday, April 14, 2017 General News
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This notice has been updated to include information about an updated food recall warning related to the outbreak investigation that was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency findings during its food safety investigation into this outbreak. Canadians are advised to not eat or use any recalled flour or flour products included in the updated food recall warning. These food recall warnings and this outbreak are a reminder that it is not safe to taste or eat raw dough or batter regardless of the type of flour used as raw flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli. Follow safe flour handling practices to reduce your risk of becoming sick.

OTTAWA, April 13, 2017 /CNW/ -

Why you should take note?

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating

with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli, called E. coli O121 that has been linked to various flour and flour products produced by Ardent Mills. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued an updated food recall warning advising Canadians of several flours and flour products under brand names Brodie, Creative Baker, Golden Temple, and Robin Hood, which were produced by Ardent Mills. This updated food recall warning was triggered by CFIA findings during its food safetyinvestigation into this outbreak.

These food recall warnings and this outbreak are a reminder that it is not safe to taste or eat raw dough or batter, regardless of the type of flour used as raw flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli.

The investigation is ongoing and it is possible that more products linked to the outbreak investigation may be identified. The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

Canadians are advised not to use or eat any recalled flour or flour products.  For additional food recall details on product brand names and lot codes, please consult CFIA's recall notice. Restaurants and retailers are also advised not to sell or serve any recalled products, or any items that may have been prepared or produced using recalled products.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the intestines of cattle, poultry, other animals, and humans. Most E. coli are harmless to humans. However, there are many different strains of E. coli, and some varieties can cause serious illness.

While most people made ill by E. coli experience a few days of upset stomach and then recover fully, infections can sometimes be life threatening.

Investigation Summary

There have been 26 cases of E. coli O121 with a matching genetic fingerprint. Canadian cases were reported in four provinces: British Columbia (12), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (4) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5). One of the 26 cases was a visitor to Canada. The illness onset dates range from November 2016 to February 2017. Six individuals have been hospitalized. These individuals have recovered or are recovering. No deaths have been reported. The majority (54%) of the individuals who became ill are male with an average age of 24 years. 

During the food safety investigation, samples of Robin Hood All Purpose, Original flour were collected and did test positive for E. coli O121. Several individuals who became ill reported having contact with Robin Hood flour. The CFIA has issued food recall warnings for various flours and flours products produced by Ardent Mills that were triggered by findings during the food safety investigation into this outbreak. The investigation is ongoing and it is possible that additional products linked to the outbreak investigation may be identified.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get an E. coli infection, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

What you should do to protect your health?

Check to see if you have any of the recalled products in your home or place of business.  If you do:

  • Do not use or eat recalled flour or flour products. If you have a recalled flour product in your home, secure the recalled product in a plastic bag and throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased for a refund.
  • If you have flour without its original packaging and are unsure if it is included in the food recall, throw it out just to be safe.
  • Thoroughly wash any containers that were used to store the recalled product before using them again.
  • If you suspect you may have used recalled flour to make baked goods or a non-baked product, such as children's play-dough, throw it out. Wash all surfaces or containers where the product may have been used or stored.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately following any contact with the recalled product.

For general use of flour, the following tips will also help reduce your risk of becoming ill:

  • Do not taste raw dough or batter. Eating a small amount could make you sick.
  • Bake or cook items made with raw dough or batter before eating them.
  • Always use hot water and soap to wash any bowls, utensils, or surfaces that flour was used on.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately after touching flour, raw dough or batter.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have become ill from eating raw dough or batter or from consuming or handling a flour product.


People infected with E. coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. Still others become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache
  • little or no fever

Most symptoms clear up within five to ten days without needing to see a healthcare professional. However, some people who are infected with E. coli develop life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. While most individuals will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage. Death can also result in extremely rare cases.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads multi-jurisdictional human health investigations of outbreaks and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address outbreaks.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians if new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

  • E.coli Fact Sheet
  • Food Safety Tips
  • Be Food Safe
  • CFIA's food recall warning
  • Recalls and safety alerts mobile application


SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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