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Central kitchen linked to E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares reopens to serve meals

A daycare at the centre of an E. coli outbreak at several daycares is seen in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Alberta Health says a central kitchen related to an E. coli outbreak at multiple daycares in Calgary has been cleared to reopen in a limited way as a review panel looking at food safety continues its work.

The E. coli outbreak, declared on Sept. 4, led to at least 448 infections — including 39 children and one adult being hospitalized for severe illness.

The eight-week outbreak was linked to the central kitchen, which the province says has been cleared to reopen but only to receive and serve food prepared by Meals on Wheels to children in the daycare at that location.

A closure order was rescinded by Alberta Health Services on Nov. 17 after previous violations were corrected.

The kitchen had been flagged during the outbreak for three critical health violations, including lack of proper sanitization methods, a pest infestation that included cockroaches and food being transported without temperature control.

Alberta Health says a review panel led by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson continues to look at food safety in kitchens that provide food in licensed child-care facilities and will make recommendations on how to better protect children.

"We are committed to ensuring a situation like this never happens again," Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement. 

"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."

Its final report and recommendations are expected in the spring of 2024, although Alberta Health said there could be an interim report if there are immediate opportunities to enhance or strengthen Alberta's food safety regulations or procedures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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