Investigation into E. coli outbreak at Calgary and area daycares deepens

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Investigation into E-coli outbreak at Calgary and area daycares deepens
WATCH: Several children are still hospitalized and many others are ill after an apparent E. coli outbreak at multiple daycares in Calgary and the surrounding area. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, the outbreak has led to a lot of questions and concerns. – Sep 5, 2023

The number of sick children continues to grow following an E. coli outbreak at almost a dozen Calgary and area daycare centres — most under the banner of Fueling Brains Academy.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were a reported 15 children in hospital. The number of lab-confirmed cases had also more than tripled since Monday — from 17 to 56 cases.

Danielle Redwood’s three-year-old son Abdoulaye was confirmed positive Monday, after showing several signs of illness a couple of days before.

“He was very fussy. He had quite a bit of diarrhea,” she told Global News. “He’s getting tested every 24 hours right now. He’s got the little port in his arm still for the bloodwork, he has to do urine samples and stool samples until he’s negative.”

“It makes me sick. He’s only three. They’re the most vulnerable population.”

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Redwood is one of many angry parents demanding answers from Fueling Brains, questioning why parents were only sent a letter Monday night.

“I don’t feel they let us know as fast as they knew what it was,” she said, pointing out many parents had complained about symptoms since Sunday.

Global News forwarded some of those questions and concerns to the operators of Fueling Brains.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, officials said, “On behalf of the team at Fueling Brains, we are deeply saddened that children are sick. The health and safety of our children, parents and staff has always been our priority.”

Co-founder Faisal Alimohd went on to state the company provided all available information to parents and staff as early and frequently as possible.

“We were notified by Alberta Health Services of a potential outbreak at approximately noon on Sunday, September 3, and immediately began working closely with AHS to investigate the source.”

“As soon as we had sufficient and reliable information to share, families were notified of the developing situation.”

AHS notice posted on the door of one Fueling Brains location. Tomasia DaSilva

Fueling Brains said although not all of its childcare campuses are currently identified as being on outbreak status but AJS, it has proactively closed all potentially impacted locations as a precaution.

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Alimohd also added, “The exact source of the outbreak has not been identified, but we will be reviewing our policies, procedures, and sourcing related to food services for our facilities.”

An earlier statement said one of the hypotheses was that the cause was food prepared by its “central kitchen”. Global News has been able to confirm that kitchen is run by the company under the banner of Fueling Minds.

Global News obtained AHS Health Inspection Reports dating back to 2021. While some of Fueling Minds’ inspections passed with no issues over the years, there were some violations. According to the reports, issues included lack of sanitizer in the kitchen, dirty food contact surfaces, broken appliances and food not being stored at safe temperatures.

There were follow-up inspections and most violations were eventually corrected according to the reports.

Redwood said this outbreak shows there is still much more that the company can and should do.

“I feel there definitely should have been higher standards for food preparation and quality.”

Fueling Brains told Global News it will thoroughly clean all of its affected facilities during the closure, so that parents can feel safe sending their children back.

Redwood, who’s a single mom and has had to take a week off of work, said she has lost trust in the company. However, given Alberta’s lack of available care spots she’s “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to sending her son back.

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“My confidence level with the daycare? Honestly, not very high,” she pointed out. “Not only did they literally feed it to them, but they didn’t take ownership right away.”

“I want answers and I want holding the people responsible — responsible.”


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