OTTAWA, Ontario – The Canadian Food Safety Inspection Agency is conducting a food safety investigation at Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., which produced the beef burgers currently under recall on concerns the products are contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. There have been no indications of problems at the plant so far, and the burgers have not been definitively linked to the illnesses, according to CFIA.

CFIA and Loblaw Companies Ltd., Brampton, Ontario, alerted consumers not to eat Butcher’s Choice Garlic Peppercorn Beef Burgers. The recall came as the result of an ongoing investigation into a number of E. coli infections in Canada, according to CFIA. Additional products collected across Canada are being tested, and the recall may expand to include other product codes or items based on test results, the agency said.

CFIA was alerted to the problem on Dec. 5. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) notified the CFIA that a small cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses were reported in Ontario and Alberta. PHAC said the illnesses were potentially linked to the Butcher's Choice Garlic Peppercorn Beef Burgers made by Cardinal Meat Specialists. The CFIA subsequently launched a food safety investigation, which included extensive testing of retail samples from across Canada. Preliminary results identified two presumptive positives for E. coli O157:H7 in one lot of frozen hamburgers, CFIA said.

“An initial review of inspection reports and company documentation has not identified any issues with the facility's E. coli O157:H7 control measures and currently has no outstanding corrective action requests,” the agency said in an online statement. “The agency will take immediate action in response to any issues of concern at the establishment.”

PHAC officials said there is strong evidence that the cases identified are linked to a common source, but investigators have not located the source. Additionally, the current cases do not share the same genetic fingerprint as those from the outbreak linked to an XL Foods processing plant.

Cardinal Meat Specialists is a family owned company that was founded by Ralph Cator in 1966 and is now led by Brent Cator, according to the company’s website. The company manufactures portion controlled meat products — one facility specializes in burgers, while the other produces fully cooked meats.