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Alberta says 100 people have gotten ill from E. coli linked to raw pork products

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EDMONTON - Alberta's chief medical officer says 100 people in the province have gotten ill from E. coli linked to raw pork products, including 19 people who have been hospitalized.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ordered a recall of pork products from V and T Meat and Food in Calgary and Hiep Thanh Trading in Edmonton over concerns they may contain E. coli 0157:H7.

Dr. James Talbot said the two companies — one a grocery store and the other a meat processor that distributes to restaurants — have been shut down.

Late Friday, the CFIA reported that Vinh Fat Food Products of Edmonton had recalled its frozen pork spring rolls, pork buns and pork wontons due to possible E. coli contamination. A spokeswoman for the company said it was a voluntary recall.

"From July 15 to Sept. 4 in this province there have been 153 cases of E. coli. One hundred of them have been associated ... to be part of this outbreak and linked to raw pork products," he said Friday.

"Nineteen people have been hospitalized to date. There have been, fortunately, no deaths."

Talbot said most people affected by this E. coli strain get diarrhea and are knocked off their feet, but others can suffer more serious problems such as kidney problems or kidney failure.

He said the 100 cases have been linked either directly or indirectly to the companies. The results of more tests are expected Monday.

"We don't require absolute proof before we go in and act to make sure that public safety is protected," he said.

Talbot said Alberta Health Services and the CFIA continue to investigate to determine if more products need to be recalled.

The investigation has been complicated by two factors — E. coli bacteria problems are more likely associated with beef products than pork, and the outbreak has mainly affected people from the Asian community, which posed language challenges for investigators, Talbot said.

He said it is the largest E. coli outbreak in Alberta in 15 years, when 42 cases were reported in the province.

The CFIA has designated the recall a Class 1, or high hazard recall.

The agency warns food contaminated with this form of E. coli may not look or smelled spoiled, but could cause health problems and, in severe cases, possible kidney damage or death.

"Consumers, food service establishments, retailers, distributors and manufacturers in Alberta, should not consume, serve, use, or sell certain raw pork products sold by these two retailers/distributors because the raw pork products may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7," the CFIA says in a release.

A list of the affected products can be found here:

www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2014-09-04/eng/1409875701134/1409875712728

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