Following the E. coli outbreak in Calgary, Premier Danielle Smith directed Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange and Minister of Children and Family Services Searle Turton to conduct a full assessment on this outbreak. Both ministers will work with the panel to find ways to strengthen legislation and inspection processes that govern food safety in food establishments serving licensed, child-care facilities.
The panel will also include (to a maximum of six members):
- licensed facility-based child-care operators
- food service operators
- food safety and public health experts
“I am so pleased to hear that more children are recovering from E. coli. During the past weeks, our attention has been focused on their health and on the investigation into the outbreak. Now, we must begin our work to ensure that Alberta children and families never experience something like this again. I appreciate Rick Hanson’s support in chairing this panel and I look forward to receiving their report and recommendations.”
“The Premier has tasked Minister Turton and I with conducting a fulsome review, and the panel is part of the work we are doing to prevent future outbreaks. I look forward to hearing from former chief of the Calgary police Rick Hanson and the panel on what they think can be done to enhance the food safety system to protect children who attend daycare across the province.”
“The E. coli outbreak in Calgary, which impacted so many young children, is of deep concern to all Albertans. As chair of the review panel, I can assure you that all members of the panel are firmly committed to conducting a thorough and complete review of all the circumstances surrounding this event. We will be relentless in our search to uncover deficiencies in the system and in making recommendations to prevent this from ever occurring again.”
The investigation into the cause of the outbreak continues. Public health officials have reviewed food histories of more than 1,150 children and 250 staff at the 11 affected child-care facilities. Officials also tested 44 food, five milk and five oat beverage samples, and examined food preparation and transportation protocols at the shared kitchen.
Investigators cross-checked their interviews with attendance records, combed through individual meal plans – some of which involved four separate meals a day and special menus – and examined kitchen controls and timing food delivery routes.
Based on the investigation, it’s believed that the meatloaf and vegan loaf meals served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the infectious E. coli. Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before the outbreak was identified.
Investigations are ongoing to help understand connections, if any, between the contaminated food and the violations identified in the Sept. 5 inspection of the shared kitchen.
Before the investigation report is released to Albertans, a third party will review to validate the findings.
Hospitalizations and cases
The E. coli outbreak continues to show signs of nearing an end, as only a small number of primary and secondary cases have been seen over the past week.
As of Sept. 26, there were a total of 351 lab-confirmed cases connected to this outbreak. Four patients are currently receiving care in hospital.
The number of secondary cases related to this outbreak is 37. Some cases of secondary transmission are common and expected in significant outbreaks such as this.
A total of 1,084 children connected to the outbreak have been cleared to return to a child-care facility.
“This large outbreak is about people – the sick children and their families who have endured so much, and the hundreds of health care professionals who are part of the response. I want to thank everyone who has cared for a sick child and is working to understand how the outbreak happened. This has been a remarkable amount and quality of work in a short period of time. I want Albertans to know we are doing everything in our power to answer as many questions as possible.”
As of Sept. 26, 1st Class Child Care Shawnessy and CEFA Early Learning Calgary South had their exclusion orders rescinded. In addition, JCC and Renert Junior Kindergarten had their exclusion orders rescinded on Sept. 25.
MTC Childcare centre remains under an exclusion order for the Promenade and McKenzie Rooms. Children may attend if they are symptom-free and have received a rescind letter from Alberta Health Services.
Families whose child-care program was fully closed, directly affected by a partial closure or exclusion order due to the outbreak declared on Sept. 4 may be eligible for a one-time compassionate payment of $2,000 per child.
Alberta’s government is committed to working with parents and operators through this challenging time and encourage them to reach out to Child Care Connect at 1-844-644-5165 with questions or concerns.
“Ensuring the safety and well-being of children in Alberta’s child-care facilities is a top priority of mine. I look forward to working with Minister LaGrange and the rest of the panel to ensure that our child-care system remains a safe and dependable option for Alberta parents.”
Guidance to parents
If children develop symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, families are strongly encouraged to visit an emergency department. If a child is not symptomatic, please do not take them to hospital. Families with concerns or questions can call Health Link at 8-1-1 or contact their family physician for advice and support.
Details and regular updates about this outbreak can be found on the following AHS website: Alberta Health Services – E. coli Outbreak.
- The Food Safety and Licensed Facility-based Childcare Review Panel will:
- Review the Public Health Act, Food Regulation and Institutions Regulation, the Early Learning and Child Care Act and Early Learning and Child Care Regulation, and the associated inspection processes in the context of prevention of food-borne illness.
- Review the legislation and inspection protocols in other jurisdictions.
- Review the E. coli outbreak investigation report, once it is complete.
- Recommend how processes in relation to licensing/permitting, food handling, inspections and inspection violations could be strengthened in licensed facility-based child-care and food establishments supplying those facilities.