A Manitoba woman says she may not eat beef again after her son bit down on a piece of steel, similar to an injection needle, in his roast beef during a recent family dinner.
Sheila Lamb of Cooks Creek, located northeast of Winnipeg, says she doesn't know how the hollow tube, which was almost four centimetres in length and had a sharp point at one end, could have made it into the roast beef she had cooked for her family on Sunday.
"I think we were just in shock," she told CBC News. "You don't have any other feeling but sickness to your stomach."
Lamb's 25-year-old son, Orry, said he made the discovery as he was chewing on his dinner.
"I was just chewing a piece of meat and I felt a sharp poke in my gums, in my cheek, and then bit down on something hard," Orry Lamb said, adding that he initially thought it was a piece of bone.
"He took it out of his mouth and we looked at it and he says, 'It looks like a needle.' It looks like a piece of a needle that's broken off," said his mother.
Sheila Lamb said she feels terrible because she didn't notice the foreign object while carving the roast for her guests, but she's also relieved no one was injured.
"Orry was lucky to find it and bite down just the right way," she said.
"What if it had been someone else — a smaller child that maybe wouldn't have reacted the same way? They just would've, you know, bit harder or it got stuck in their throat."
Family wants beef recall
Lamb said the next morning, she phoned the Co-op store in nearby Oakbank, Man., where she purchased the roast and was told the meat had been shipped in from a Cargill Ltd. meat processing plant based in Alberta.
Both Lamb and her son say they want a recall of the beef product in question, as they wonder how the object in the meat would have made it to their dinner table.
"How did an inch-and-a-half piece of steel get missed?" she said.
"I keep using the analogy that we can't get on a plane without being scanned.… How does a cow with this steel in his body get from the farmer's field to my table and into our mouths without being detected?"
There are a number of ways a piece of needle could end up in a roast, says Rick Holley, a food sciences professor at the University of Manitoba.
For example, livestock are given vaccinations twice a year, he said.
"If the animals are not properly restrained in a holding device, they can move during the course of the injection, and that's when you can get separation of the needle," he said.
Holley said meat processing plants do have devices to detect metal, and the piece that ended up in the roast beef was more than large enough to set off an alarm.
"Vigilance is important and, you know, it is possible that the machine was offline and not operating at the time that piece of meat went through," he said, adding that he cannot say for sure what may have happened.
Cargill launches investigation
The Co-op store that sold the beef has apologized, while Cargill said it has launched an internal investigation.
"Cargill is committed to safeguarding the wholesomeness and integrity of the products we produce and sell across our operations," spokeswoman Brigitte Burgoyne wrote in an email to CBC News on Wednesday.
Burgoyne said Cargill does not use needles in its facilities, "and at this point nothing further is ruled out."
"We are currently looking for answers throughout the entire supply chain and would like to apologize for any concerns this may have raised with the consumer," she added.
Burgoyne said the company contacted the customer and issued a full refund.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency told CBC News it's also looking into the issue, which was reported on Wednesday.
The Cargill Ltd. plant, identified as Establishment 93, is a federally registered slaughter and processing facility, meaning "CFIA staff are present when the facility is operating in order to verify the company is following its food safety plan and complying with CFIA regulations," a spokesperson stated in an email Thursday.
But Sheila Lamb said the incident has shaken her confidence.
"I'm not a big meat eater and this just completely killed it for me," she said.