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Licensing charges filed against kitchen operators linked to daycare center outbreak

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Directors of the company that runs the commercial kitchen linked to an E. Coli outbreak that sickened hundreds of daycare students in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, now face more than $100,000 in fines after officials disclosed the kitchen was operating without a license for certain locations.

The directors of Fueling Minds are charged under municipal laws in Calgary and are set for a court appearance in November. At this time they face $120,000 in fines. The catering company, operating under the full name Kids U Centennial-Fueling Minds Inc., has the same corporate address and email as Fueling Brains Academy, the daycare company operating centers where sick children attended.

Multiple Canadian news outlets sought comment from the company, but it declined those requests via an emailed statement. In addition to the licensing violation the kitchen was flagged in recent months for numerous health violations, including food transportation concerns.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 27, there were 351 children confirmed in the E. Coli O157:H7 outbreak. The outbreak saw 37 hospitalized with 22 children diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which attacks the kidneys and blood stream and can lead to multiple organ failure, brain damage, and the need for transplants. Four children remain hospitalized and on dialysis. 

During a press conference Sept. 27, the Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Mark Joffe said the number of cases was holding steady at 351. The outbreak was declared on Sept. 4. He was later made aware of additional daycare sites in Calgary where children tested positive for E. coli. Joffe says the facilities were temporarily closed out of an abundance of caution.

Eleven daycare centers were initially closed, as was the central kitchen, but the centers were allowed to reopen. The kitchen remains closed. According to Fueling Brains Academy it has eight preschool and daycare centers in Calgary and Strathmore. It takes care of about 2,000 children. Six of the 11 daycares initially closed because of the outbreak are Fueling Brains locations and had some of their children involved in the outbreak.

Corporate records from the Alberta provincial government show Fueling Brains Inc. was incorporated in the province in 2017. The company’s directors are Faisal Alimohd and Anil Karim, who are both listed as voting shareholders.

During a press conference Aug. 27, Joffe said interviews indicate the cause of the outbreak was meat loaf and vegan loaf. Joffe said the investigation into the cause of the outbreak included interviews with hundreds of parents and daycare staffers and the testing of 44 food samples.

“We believe that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals that were served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to these infections,” said Joffe.

“Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before this outbreak was identified. While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how.”

Also speaking at the press conference was Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who said the province will set up a third-party panel to review the investigation. It will also investigate what went wrong and recommend ways to avoid such situations in the future.

“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,” Smith said.

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