Kitchen at centre of daycare E. coli outbreak allowed to reopen in ‘limited capacity’

File photo of a Fueling Minds van, parked in Calgary on Sept. 4, 2023. Global News

The kitchen at the centre of a daycare-related E. coli outbreak in Calgary that infected hundreds and sent dozens to hospital has reopened, the Alberta government confirmed on Monday.

Alberta Health said that after an Alberta Health Services inspection on Nov. 15 finding all the violations had been corrected, the closure order was pulled two days later, allowing the Fueling Brains Academy (FBA) Centennial kitchen to reopen.

The province said the kitchen can operate “in a limited capacity” at FBA’s Centennial child-care site only. The kitchen is not allowed to prepare full meals or transport food to other child-care sites and will instead receive and serve meals from third-party contractor Meals on Wheels.

Since the central kitchen’s initial closure order was issued on Sept. 4 – the same day the outbreak was declared – AHS inspectors visited the central kitchen 16 times.

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On Sept. 5, two live adult cockroaches were observed by inspectors, and traps near sinks had caught 20 more. On Nov. 2, inspectors noted there appeared to still be “low activity” in the kitchen despite three “treatments and many more monitors deployed.”

Click to play video: 'Company at centre of Calgary E. coli outbreak facing charges'
Company at centre of Calgary E. coli outbreak facing charges

An inspection on Nov. 2 showed sewer odour was present near food prep area sinks and inspectors said no invoices were available for repairs that were conducted. That issue was first identified on Sept. 5.

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The Sept. 5 inspection also revealed there was zero measurable sanitation solution in a sanitation dispenser, a probe thermometer was not stored in a sanitary location, and the operator told inspectors cold foods were being transported to other locations at least 90 minutes away without temperature control.

The Nov. 15 inspection showed no violations in the central kitchen and the province said it would be inspected “on an increased frequency” in the coming weeks.

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AHS determined that it was highly likely that the source of the outbreak was food distributed from the central kitchen.

Click to play video: 'External panel to probe E. Coli outbreak in Alberta'
External panel to probe E. Coli outbreak in Alberta

On Sept. 27, the health minister announced a panel would be formed under former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson to review food safety for kitchens that serve child-care facilities.

On Monday, the province announced the members of the panel:

  • Pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist Dr. James Kellner
  • Food microbiologist Dr. Lynn McMullen
  • Restauranteur Leslie Echino
  • Day care owner and operator Tyler and Shapka
  • YMCA president and CEO Shannon Doram

The panel had its first meeting on Nov. 2 and will continue to meet through the winter. The final report with recommendations on how to improve food safety for daycares is expected in the spring, unless the panel deems an interim report identifying early ways to improve food safety regulations or procedures is warranted.

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Click to play video: 'Calgary E. coli outbreak: Catering company charged with bylaw infraction for operating without business licence'
Calgary E. coli outbreak: Catering company charged with bylaw infraction for operating without business licence

“The panel’s recommendations will inform decisions on what can be done to enhance or strengthen the food safety system and will be instrumental in preventing future outbreaks,” Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement.

In the days after the outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was announced on Sept. 4, 358 lab-confirmed and 90 probably cases were linked to the outbreak. There were 32 lab-confirmed secondary cases linked to the outbreak.

More than 20 children were treated for hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a disease that affects kidneys and blood clotting. Thirty-nine children and one adult linked to the outbreak required hospitalization.

In total, 18 facilities were closed at one time in connection to the outbreak.

AHS declared the outbreak over on Oct. 31. It was the largest E. coli outbreak in the province’s history and, by some measures, in the country’s history.


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