CALGARY — Inspectors found three critical violations at a central kitchen serving Calgary daycares affected by an E. coli outbreak, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Tuesday.
The violations stem from an inspection on Sept. 5 related to food handling, sanitation and pest-control, said Dr. Mark Joffe, adding there were also two non-critical violations related to an odour and utensil storage.
There have been 264 lab-confirmed cases of the bacterial infection since the outbreak at 11 daycares was declared on Sept. 4.
"This has been an extraordinary outbreak, both in terms of the numbers and the severity," Joffe told a news conference.
"It is certainly the largest outbreak in Alberta that I'm aware of and it's particularly serious given that it has largely impacted young children who are at most risk of severe outcomes."
Twenty-five patients are in hospital, and 22 of those patients have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication affecting the blood and kidneys. Six patients are on dialysis at Alberta Children's Hospital.
Joffe said the kitchen was almost certainly the source of the infections. He said closing it immediately on Sept. 4 likely prevented the outbreak from being much worse.
The Sept. 5 inspection report on the kitchen, released publicly Tuesday, shows solutions used for sanitizing equipment and utensils weren't appropriate or were not maintained at adequate concentrations.
An operator also told the inspector that cold foods were being transported to other locations for 90 minutes or more without temperature control.
"Food must be maintained below 4 C or above 60 C during transport," the report said, noting food was not being handled in a way that makes it safe to eat.
The inspector also found two live adult cockroaches and at least 20 dead cockroaches on sticky pads.
"Significant evidence of a pest infestation was found at this food establishment," said the report.
Previous inspection reports also found violations, including cleanliness and sanitation issues, an expired food handling certificate and inadequate handwashing facilities dating back to July 2021.
"This information, all together, is part of the ongoing investigation," said Joffe.
Eleven food samples from the central kitchen and eight from daycare sites are being tested in an Alberta Health Services public health lab to determine the exact source of the outbreak.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 12, 2023.
Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press