Credits: Stacy Bailey/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
More than 200 product types that have been distributed through various retailers across Canada have been recalled since Sept. 16 after concerns were raised they may be contaminated with E. coli.
The meat products originated from a processing plant in Brooks, Alta, operated by XL Foods.
"We have discovered through the recall investigation that there is some ground beef on the market that has essentially been repackaged and unlabelled, so if people are in doubt and have unlabelled ground beef in their freezers, they should go to the retailer where they bought it," said Tim O'Connor of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
The Brooks facility was de-listed Sept. 13 by the American Food Safety and Inspection Service, meaning it it not certified to export products to the U.S., the CFIA confirmed this week.
Meanwhile, a steak "tenderizing" process could be to blame for four people contracting E. coli earlier this month after eating steak from an Edmonton Costco store, it was announced Wednesday.
Health officials say they're unsure if the bacteria was already on the steaks when they were shipped from XL Foods, or if a meat tenderizing machine employed in all Costco locations is to blame.
Half of eight E. coli cases being investigated this month in Alberta have now been positively linked to the Edmonton Costco and the consumption of its Kirkland brand New York-style strip loin, which was recently recalled by the CFIA.
Initial investigation by health and safety officers drew some major red flags, said Alberta's senior medical officer of health, Dr. Gerry Predy.
Predy said an inspection agent noted a metal machine that jabs sharp, needle-like projections directly into the centre of the steak.
If there is any bacteria on the meat surface, this could pose potential for contamination, Predy said, adding the machine itself could also carry bacteria.
"Now, what we don't know is the source of the contamination," he said.
"Possibly it could have been on (the meat) or it could have come through the process in the store. We might never know."
Costco cleaned the machine daily, he said, but health officials have ordered managers at Costco stores throughout the province to stop this particular tenderizing process, Predy added.
No other grocery stores in the province were found to employ similar techniques.
XL Foods released a statement Wednesday saying though there has been no definitive link between its products and the E. coli cases, it is "deeply concerned" for the well-being of those suffering from the bacterial infection.
The company says it is working with the CFIA and provincial health officials looking into the recall of the steaks linked to the cases.
There are four other recent E. coli cases being investigated by Alberta Health -- three in the Calgary area and one in the central part of the province.