E. coli concerns prompt national flour recall

Concerns about people getting ill from possible E. coli contamination have triggered a national food recall warning about a popular brand of flour.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says 10,000, 10-kilogram bags of Robin Hood Original All Purpose Flour are being recalled by Smucker Foods of Canada.

“The risk is defined high enough that we want to make sure that consumers are aware of it,” Fred Jamieson, a CFIA food safety recall specialist, said Wednesday.

“We don’t want them to continue consuming the product. We want them to throw it out or take it back to retail and to encourage people if they aren’t feeling well to seek medical aid.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says an outbreak of E. coli O121 has been linked to the flour.

The recall applies to flour with a best before date of April 17, 2018 (2018 AL 17) and the production code 6 291 548.

The agency says there have been 26 cases of people being infected with this kind of E. coli bacteria in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

No deaths have been reported, but at least six people required hospital care.

The agency says the investigation is ongoing and there could be additional products linked to the outbreak.

Food contaminated with E. coli may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make people sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.

The bacteria can be found in the lower intestines of animals and people.

Jamieson said all of the bags of flour that haven’t been sold are now off store shelves, but it is not clear how many are in the hands of consumers.

The shelf life of a bag of flour can be up to 18 months.

Maribeth Burns, a spokeswoman for the J.M. Smucker Company, said the flour was produced at a mill in Saskatoon.

Burns said consumers should note public health warnings not to taste raw dough or batter and that eating a small amount could make people sick.

Consumers are also being told to use hot water and soap to wash any bowls, utensils, or surfaces that flour was used on and to wash their hands after handling flour.

“We can assure you that consumer safety and product quality are of paramount importance to our company,” Burns said in an email from the company’s office in Ohio.

“As such, we have been working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on this limited recall on one production code of flour.”

Burns said the wheat the flour is made from undergoes minimal processing.

The CFIA said it is investigating the source of the E. coli.

Last month the agency announced an initial recall of the flour in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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