As the number of Alberta residents sickened by pork tainted with E. coli rises, many of the butcher shops caught up in the ensuing recall say their businesses’ reputations have been damaged.
Since the outbreak began in late March, 40 cases of E. coli infection have been confirmed; 12 people have been hospitalized and one person has died.
The outbreak began when several people who visited the same restaurant in Edmonton become ill. Alberta Health Services soon traced the illnesses to pork products distributed by The Meat Shop in Pine Haven, Alb.
That prompted a recall that has since expanded to include raw and frozen meat, ground pork, sausages and more. The products have only been distributed in Alberta. ( Full list of retailers listed here)
An Edmonton law firm has already begun a $15-million lawsuit against The Meat Shop, on behalf of those who have become ill. But more than half a dozen businesses whose names have been caught up in the recall say their reputations are taking a hit too.
Alicia Boisvert of Edmonton’s Real Deal Meats says her family-run business has had to throw away thousands of dollars worth of meat — much of it returned by customers.
“We have to remove all the packaging… before the truck picks it up,” she told CTV Edmonton. “And then we have to pay for that (removal). Obviously, we’re going to have to figure that out as well.”
Another business whose reputation has taken a hit in this outbreak is Mama Nita’s Filipino Cuisine in southeast Edmonton – the restaurant where the outbreak began.
A full 21 of the 40 lab-confirmed cases have been linked to Mama Nita’s. The restaurant is still open but would not speak to CTV Edmonton about how their business is doing.
The other 19 illnesses — including the one involving the patient who died — have been linked to pork sold by Pine Haven’s retail partners.
The names of each business have been listed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website, their store fronts splashed on the news even if they didn’t sell any contaminated pork.
Real Deal Meats’ Boisvert says, just being associated with an E. coli outbreak has led to many sleepless night for her and her family.
At K&K Foodliner — another food retailer caught up in the recall — business is slower. Even though Pine Haven pork is no longer sold at the store, general manager Kevin Krause says some customers are avoiding pork altogether.
“This is our first recall in 62 years,” he told CTV Edmonton. “Regardless if it’s Pine Haven’s fault, it’s still our reputation on the line as well.”
The CFIA says its outbreak investigation is still active, which means there could be still more illnesses
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning usually start one to 10 days after eating contaminated food. The most common symptom is diarrhea, which may be bloody.
Food contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 may not look or smell spoiled, which is why Albertans are advised to check every pork product they have to see if they are part of the recall.
With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Dan Grummett
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