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Calgary halal food stores, grocers shut down by Alberta Health Services; public alert issued

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Alberta Health Services has issued closure orders to a number of Calgary halal food establishments, as well as a public alert.

AHS says "anyone who has purchased meat or products containing meat from the following Calgary-based businesses is instructed to dispose of these products immediately and watch for symptoms of gastro-intestinal bacterial infection. This includes leftovers brought home from any meals eaten at any of these businesses":

  • Alta Halal Meat - 6426 36 St. N.E., Units 150 and 155;
  • Bismillah Meat and Grocery - 4250 109 Ave. N.E., Unit 4110;
  • Madina Halal Meat and Grocery - 4656 Westwinds Dr. N.E. Unit 510;
  • Maher Fresh Halal Meat - 3517 17 Ave. S.E., Unit 101;
  • Mediterranean Halal Meats and Deli - A3917, 17 Ave. S.E.;
  • Mustafa Madani Halal Meat and Grocery – 7 Westwinds Cr. N.E., Unit 109;
  • Shawdesi Bazaar – 55 Westwinds Cr. N.E., Unit 131; and
  • Shawdesi Foods and Catering - 55 Westwinds Cr. N.E., Unit 127.

"AHS has issued closure orders to each of these business between April 19 and April 22, 2024, following inspections that confirmed the presence of uninspected meat products. You can find them here," the health authority says.

"AHS is collaborating with the following partners: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Alberta Health, and Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation (AAI), in an ongoing investigation into this issue."

Documents for all of the locations say owners have to provide AHS with evidence that all prepared, processed and displayed food they offer is from an approved source and provide a list of all food suppliers.

They also have to provide officials with a copy of all the receipts/invoices for all meat products from the past three months, and clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces.

Documents also show Maher Fresh Halal Meat had a "significant cockroach infestation" where "live and dead cockroaches were observed throughout the food establishment."

In addition to the above conditions, AHS says Maher Fresh Halal Meat must retain the services of a professional pest control company to eliminate the cockroaches.

All of the closure orders will be in place until a full food source investigation can be completed.

"A commitment from these facilities to obtain all meat/food from approved sources will also be required before closure orders are lifted," AHS said in a statement to CTV News.

One other business, Desi’s Vibes, located at 52 Cooperstown Pl. S.W. in Airdrie, Alta., was also closed April 19 for “operating without a valid and subsisting food handling permit from Alberta Health Services.”

RCMP investigating illegal slaughtering

AHS said it was notified by the RCMP on April 18 that there was evidence uninspected meat had been purchased and sold.

On Monday, Alberta RCMP issued a news release saying its livestock unit had initiated an investigation into unlawful livestock dealing and the illegal slaughter of sheep and goats in southern Alberta. 

RCMP said the investigation involved "a number of individuals, many rural locations, and a number of stores in the City of Calgary."

"In the interest of public health, the RCMP have notified Alberta Health Services of seven stores which are subject of the ongoing investigation."

Food expert’s take

According to Lynn McMullen, a University of Alberta professor of food microbiology, meat that is not properly inspected poses food safety risks and animal welfare concerns.

“You don’t know if the animals where the meat is being harvested from are healthy. So you don’t know (if) they are diseased,” said McMullen.

“There is a whole plethora of diseases we can get from animals that can get into the food supply.

“The conditions that the meat is harvested under is sometimes not what I would consider hygienic and could result in high levels of contamination with some bacterial pathogens.”

One reason consumers may purchase this meat is it’s cheaper than inspected meat, according to McMullen.

Northeast halal stores still operating

There are halal markets still operating in the Calgary's northeast.

Asian Halal Meat and Food Inc. has beef steaks, ground beef and other Halal products available for purchase. They guarantee their items are good for sale.

“All the meat is inspected by the federal and provincial inspections,” said co-owner Choudhry Atif.

The store’s owners mention cleaning and keeping it sanitary are some of their top priorities.

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