In an EU notice issued by the Netherlands, authorities flagged up the shipment of “frozen bovine meat”, containing what it described as “potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli [E.coli]”. It is unclear at this stage which factory supplied the consignment.
Samples tested on January 23 tested positive for the pathogen, the note indicates. As a result, it states, the shipment was “not authorized” to be accepted into the country. The meat was detained by border control representatives.
The incident coincides with a major current recall of frozen beef patties for retailer Canada Safeway’s burgers in Canada because of E.coli O157:H7 contamination, which began on February 19. The affected burger brands are The Gourmet Meat Shoppe and The Butcher's Cut.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is currently attempting to get to the bottom of the scare, which is believed to have sickened at least two people so far.
The patties were supplied by Canada-based Cardinal Meat Specialists. The company, which processes meat from suppliers across the globe, was also involved in a smaller recall in December, again sparked by E.coli contamination.
Investigation of that incident failed to reveal a source for the contaminated meat and the CFIA is now trying to ascertain if there is a connection between the two latest Canadian recalls, perhaps a common source.
A similar mass recall as a result of E.coli contamination of ground beef products from Canadian firm XL Foods occurred in September last year. More than 1,500 products were recalled then.
Before that, another E.coli-associated beef recall hit Canada in February 2012, involving products from New Food Classics. The ultimate source of the infected meat was unidentified.
And in October 2012, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a recall of ground beef products from Utah and Hawaii.
According to one recent study, the high prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant E.coli from animals at slaughter is of growing concern and poses an increasing risk to food safety.
The research is published in this month’s edition of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (Vol. 93; Issue 3, pages 517-526; DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.5814).
Pathogenic E.coli can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and potentially kidney failure, according to FSIS.