As an investigation into the source of a daycare E. coli outbreak continues, a panel will be set up to review food safety in kitchens that serve licensed childcare providers.
Premier Danielle Smith announced the panel on Sept. 27 during an update to an E. coli outbreak that was discovered at Calgary and area daycares earlier this month.
The Alberta Health Services website indicates 19 daycare facilities were affected by the outbreak.
The external review panel will be headed by former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, Smith said.
“The panel will be examining all aspects of this tragic situation, large and small, as well as taking a full broader look at the legislation and regulations that govern food safety in our province,” she said.
Parents, childcare operators, food service operators, food safety and public health experts are expected to play a role on the panel, she said.
“Our goal is to develop a system that is stronger and safer, and one that every parent can trust.”
She said she wants the panel to move quickly but didn’t have a firm timeline for when its report would be finished.
“My anticipation would be that this would be months, not years,” Smith said.
Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange and Minister of Children and Family Services Searle Turton will work with the panel.
“The Premier has tasked Minister Turton and I with conducting a fulsome review, and the panel is part of the work we are doing to prevent future outbreaks,” LaGrange said.
The investigation into the cause of the outbreak continues to be centered around a shared kitchen that provided food to the affected daycares.
Alberta CMOH Dr. Mark Joffe said that meatloaf and vegan-loaf meals served on Aug. 29 had “extremely high odds of being the source of the infection.”
The items could not be tested because they were eaten or discarded before the outbreak was identified on Sept. 4, Joffe said.
“While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how," he said.
The investigation is still ongoing, and a third-party will verify any findings before the results of the investigation are made public.
Four patients remain in hospital, Joffe said, and there are 351 lab-confirmed E. coli cases connected to the outbreak and 37 secondary infections.
"The good news is that the number of new infections has plateaued."
The Province said families whose child-care program was fully closed, directly affected by a partial closure or exclusion order due to the outbreak may be eligible for a one-time compassionate payment of $2,000 per child.