Alberta Health Services (AHS) has reported that a kitchen in Calgary, Fueling Minds, which supplied meals to local daycares, didn’t pass a recent health inspection. This failure is significant as it is linked to an extensive E. coli outbreak amongst the daycares’ children and staff members.
According to the AHS report, during the inspection of Fueling Minds, which is believed to be the origin of the outbreak, three glaring issues were discovered which necessitated its closure until rectification. The major problems were poor sanitization of food preparation equipment and utensils, flawed food handling procedures and notable pest concerns.
The report specifically mentioned an unsettling pest situation, with cockroaches observed around the dishwashing area. “Two live adult cockroaches were spotted on stainless steel equipment. Furthermore, at least 20 cockroaches were trapped on the sticky pads in each of the tin cat traps by the sinks,” the report outlined.
Despite the findings, Dr. Mark Joffe, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta, said that they are still uncertain about the exact source of the E. coli contamination. He assured that actions were promptly taken when health officials started admitting patients.
Dr. Joffe further explained that public health inspectors have sampled various types of food from the centralized kitchen as well as leftovers from the childcare sites for testing in AHS labs. In addition to these tests, food histories from both affected and unaffected individuals are being compiled. Once all analyses are done, the officials hope to identify the precise source of infection.
Edging on the catastrophe, Dr. Joffe said, “This has been an unprecedented outbreak in Alberta, targeting primarily young children.” He also lauded all the health-care personnel involved in managing the outbreak, providing around-the-clock assistance within the hospitals and health inspection teams.
Concerning the severity of the E. coli infections, officials have reported that the affected children are needing daily blood work. Some patients have developed more severe conditions, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, requiring hospitalization and treatments ranging from IV fluids to transfusions and even dialysis.
Acknowledging the graveness and complexity of the situation, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange extended her sympathies and full support, acknowledging the fear and feelings of powerlessness parents may be grappling with.
The Fueling Brains academy, which operates several childcare centers affected, expressed dismay and concern over the E. coli outbreak, placing the welfare of the children, parents, and staff as their top priority.
In the statement sent to CTV News Calgary, the academy detailed the action taken after notification from AHS, including campus closure, parental notification, and collaborative investigation with AHS to determine the cause of the outbreak. They assured of daily communication and support for affected families, as well as their commitment to addressing the cause and implementing required changes in operations and processes.
Meanwhile, assurances come from Children and Family Services Minister Searle Turton that measures are being put in place to help all the impacted daycares reopen safely. He announced plans to meet with Fueling Brains to discuss the outbreak and future plans.