The XL Foods beef recall list just keeps growing.
Dozens of meat cuts and stores have been added to the list which now contains hundreds of products and outlets across Canada and the United States.
So far, Hamilton has been lucky to dodge any cases of E. coli infection.
“We haven't had to pull any products ourselves,” said Richard Macdonald, food safety manager with the City of Hamilton.
Macdonald has been working in the food safety industry for 12 years, and says this is one of the biggest food recalls he's ever seen.
He says as far as he knows, grocers and chains have removed any potentially tainted beef from store shelves themselves.
When contacted Saturday, employees at both the Queenston Road and Rymal Road Sobeys locations told CBC Hamilton they did not have any XL Foods beef products on their shelves.
McMaster biology professor Herb Schellhorn told CBC he was surprised by the size of the recall.
“Clearly, something has fallen through the cracks,” Schellhorn said.
“This is a sensitive subject, because clearly it is the responsibility of the meat processing plant to ensure that E. coli does not enter into consumer meat products and it is the responsibility of the CFIA to regulate meat production.”
Schellhorn, an expert specializing in E. coli research, says he was struck by how widespread the ban is and how long it has gone on.
“It seems to be potentially affecting more and more people all the time.”
The Alberta government has confirmed that five people fell ill last month from E. coli linked to steaks processed at the XL plant. And officials say one case in Newfoundland is linked to the recalled meat.
Tests are also being done to find the source of E. coli in four other cases in Alberta, 13 in Saskatchewan and one in British Columbia.
The union representing XL Foods workers, as well as several former and current employees, say food safety was regularly jeopardized processing plant.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency shut down the Alberta plant last week, and its licence to operate the plant was temporarily suspended in the midst of a nationwide meat recall.
Tom Hesse with the United Food and Commercial Workers said the union has heard from employees about problems that could lead to tainted meat.
"Some [workers] are saying to us, 'No, I wouldn't eat the product that's produced in my own workplace',” said Hesse. "They tell us that management has a general lack of concern for food safety practices."
The union held a special meeting with about a dozen XL Foods workers this week.
There were reports that workers didn't sterilize their knives between cuts and if they did, they couldn't keep up with the workflow, said Hesse.
Management, he said, turned a blind eye.
One man who worked for an industrial company that had a contract with XL Foods told CBC News that he saw an employee go into the washroom wearing his protective gear during one of his trips to the plant.
"Throwing it on the washroom floor in front of all the urinals and relieving himself and then picking up his garments off the floor. Picking up his scabbard with his knives off the floor and then returning to the production facility," said the man, whose identity the CBC agreed to conceal.
XL Foods Inc. said in a press release Thursday it was taking "full responsibility" and is working to "implement changes to our food safety system to exceed existing high standards and regain the trust of Canadian consumers," including enhanced testing.
CBC News has also spoken with several current and former XL Foods employees who said they also saw safety concerns prior to the meat recall.
Former employee Kyle Salikin, who now operates a butcher shop in rural Saskatchewan, said cleaning equipment would frequently get clogged at the plant, but the company had other concerns.
"Processing came first, all times," he said. "That was No. 1, was processing. It wasn't cleaning, it wasn't safety, it wasn't the people working there. It was processing."
Other employees described unhygienic behaviour, including workers on the line not washing hands and wearing contaminated clothing into areas which should have been kept clean.
Hesse said he was told at the union meeting that there are also claims that bosses are reluctant to stop the line when problems are found.
"[Workers] told us that shortly before the CFIA shut the plant down there was a sewage back up on both the slaughter and process floor,” said Hesse. "That's obviously a serious issue in terms of food safety.
"They're saying that XL is more concerned with the numbers they can produce rather than the safety of the workers or the safety of the product."
Harpreet Kochhar with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told reporters Friday that XL Foods had a plan in place to battle E. coli, but didn't follow or update that plan.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, meanwhile, was under fire the House of Commons again yesterday, with the NDP demanding he apologize to Canadians and resign.
Ritz repeated that food safety remains a priority for the Harper government.
The minister has said the XL plant will not be allowed to reopen until investigators are satisfied it is safe.
-With files from the Canadian Press