Walnuts suspected in Quebec E. coli death

April 8, 2011 at 4:39 PM
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MONTREAL, April 8 (UPI) -- Walnuts are suspected in an E. coli outbreak in Quebec that killed one person and caused severe kidney complications in another, health officials said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has advised people not to eat shelled walnuts originating from a Montreal importer of nuts and dried fruits, the Montreal Gazette reported Thursday.

However, tests of walnut samples collected from the individuals who got sick, from stores and from the food importer's warehouse have tested negative for the E. coli strain, a company officer said.

Nevertheless, Amira Enterprises Inc. has voluntarily recalled all its walnuts from retail stores, Vice President Adel Boulos said.

"We have decided to do the recall even though none of the walnuts have tested positive," Boulos said. "The investigation is going on and we are co-operating fully with the government to make sure that nobody gets sick."

Imported by Amira from California, the recalled walnuts were sold under the brand names Merit Selection and Tia.

A provincial Health Department official confirmed a Quebec resident already in a weakened state because of underlying medical conditions has died from E. coli and another suffered kidney damage caused by infection.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has serious doubts as to whether the infections are related to walnuts, but it's the most probable source," the health department's Nathalie Levesque said.

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