Earlier this fall, Albertans witnessed the largest E. coli outbreak in the province’s history. Child-care facilities were affected the most, after the bacteria originated in a shared kitchen supplying the facilities with food. Alberta Health Services immediately launched an investigation and took quick action to limit the spread where possible.
In response to this outbreak, Alberta’s government appointed an external panel led by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson to review food safety in kitchens that provide food in licensed child-care facilities across Alberta and make recommendations on how to better protect children.
“We are committed to ensuring a situation like this never happens again. The panel’s recommendations will inform decisions on what can be done to enhance or strengthen the food safety system and will be instrumental in preventing future outbreaks.”
“Parents deserve peace of mind in knowing every aspect of their child’s safety and well-being is taken seriously at child-care facilities across Alberta. Given the panel's diverse range of expertise, I have full confidence their recommendations will further enhance the safety of our child-care system so families never have to go through a devastating experience like this again.”
The panel members were selected from a wide range of backgrounds and include representation from the for-profit and not-for-profit child-care sectors, food service industry and experts in food safety and in public health. The panel members are:
- Dr. James Kellner, pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist, Alberta Children’s Hospital, and professor, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
- Lynn McMullen, University of Alberta professor, faculty of agricultural, life and environmental science
- Leslie Echino, owner and operator, Annabelle’s Kitchen and Bar
- Tyler Shapka, owner, Hopscotch Early Learning & Child Care
- Shannon Doram, president and CEO, YMCA Calgary, Association Services
“I am extremely impressed with the quality and expertise of the members that have been appointed to the panel. Their diverse backgrounds as subject matter experts will ensure a thorough and comprehensive review of all the information necessary to formulate meaningful and relevant recommendations to the minister of Health and the minister of Children and Family Services. The panel is already deeply immersed in the research and working hard to complete the work necessary to further strengthen and protect the health and safety of Alberta’s children.”
The panel held its first meeting on Nov. 2 and will continue to deliberate over the winter months. Its final report and recommendations are expected in spring 2024. If the panel can identify early opportunities to enhance or strengthen Alberta’s food safety regulations or procedures, an interim report with recommendations may be completed.
The panel will review the Public Health Act, the Food Regulation, the Institutions Regulation, the Early Learning and Child Care Act and regulations, and any applicable standards, guidelines or operating procedures to improve food safety in licensed child-care facilities.
Central kitchen inspection update
After reinspecting the Fueling Brains Academy Centennial kitchen on Nov. 15, Alberta Health Services rescinded their closure order on Nov. 17, as all violations had been corrected.
As part of the reopening agreement, the facility can operate in a limited capacity at the Fueling Brains Academy child-care Centennial site only. It will not prepare full meals or transport food to other child-care sites. It will receive and serve meals from Meals on Wheels, a third-party contractor.
The facility will be inspected on an increased frequency over the next few weeks to ensure ongoing safety and identify any emerging concerns.
- On Sept. 4, Alberta Health Services declared an E. coli outbreak at a Calgary central kitchen as well as the child-care facilities it served.
- On Sept. 8, Premier Danielle Smith announced that the Government of Alberta would be conducting a review of all shared kitchens that service child-care facilities in the province.
- AHS officially declared the E. coli outbreak over on Oct. 31.
- 1,595 children connected with this outbreak have been cleared to return to a child-care facility.
- As of Nov. 21, 448 cases are linked to the E. coli outbreak.
- 358 cases are laboratory-confirmed and 90 are probable cases (probable cases include people with gastrointestinal symptoms who were epidemiologically linked to the outbreak but who did not have an STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) positive stool test).
- There are 32 lab-confirmed secondary cases linked to this outbreak.
- Alberta Health Services – E. coli Outbreak
- Terms of Reference: Food Safety and Licensed Facility-Based Child Care Review Panel
- E. coli outbreak review panel
- Government launches panel to respond to E. coli outbreak (Sept. 27, 2023)
- Encouraging news: Update on E. coli outbreak in Calgary (Sept. 19, 2023)
- Statement from Chief Medical Officer of health (Sept. 15, 2023)
- Supporting those affected by the E. coli outbreak (Sept. 15, 2023)