Robin Hood flour pulled in E. coli probe

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Federal health officials investigating over two dozen cases of E. coli poisoning across Canada are warning consumers to get rid of a certain batch of Robin Hood flour.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Tuesday issued a food recall warning for Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour, Original, distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The flour in question was sold in 10-kilogram bags with the UPC code 0 59000 01652 8 plus a code containing BB/MA 2018 AL 17 — referring to the product’s best before date of April 17, 2018 — and lot code 6 291 548, CFIA said.

Recalled products “should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased,” CFIA said, noting food contaminated with E. coli “may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.”

Any recalled product should be secured in a plastic bag and thrown out or returned to the store where it was purchased for a refund, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a separate release Tuesday.

Restaurants and retailers were also advised not to sell or serve the recalled product, nor any items that may have been prepared or produced using the recalled product.

During a food safety investigation, PHAC said, samples of Robin Hood flour were collected and “did test positive” for E. coli O121. Several individuals who became ill reported having contact with Robin Hood flour, the agency said.

PHAC on Tuesday reported 25 cases of E. coli O121 with a matching genetic fingerprint so far in its investigation, including 12 in British Columbia, four each in Saskatchewan and Alberta and five in Newfoundland and Labrador, with illness onset dates from November 2016 to late February this year.

Of the flour batch in question, though, CFIA said in its recall notice Tuesday there had been “one reported illness associated with the consumption of this product.”

Of the 25 cases, six people were hospitalized, and all the cases “have recovered or are recovering” with no deaths reported, PHAC said.

“This outbreak is a reminder that it is not safe to taste or eat raw dough or batter, regardless of the type of flour used as raw flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli,” PHAC said.

While a cause for the contamination wasn’t stated, Smucker Foods of Canada, which owns the Robin Hood brand, has said in an unrelated statement on a company website that it’s “important to remember that wheat is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present,” thus consumers should never eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour.

It’s still possible, PHAC said Tuesday, that “additional products linked to the outbreak investigation may be identified.” — Network

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