Skip to main content

Families affected by Calgary E. coli outbreak disappointed by not guilty plea


A company that runs a commercial kitchen at the centre of an E. coli outbreak at multiple Calgary daycares has entered a not guilty plea to municipal bylaw charges.

The City of Calgary charged Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors, Faisal Alimohd and Anil Karim, in September with serving food at childcare centres in Calgary without a food services business licence.

They face 12 charges and a total fine of up to $120,000.

A lawyer for the company met with the Crown prosecutor at the Calgary Courts Centre today and entered the not guilty plea.

Weston Wood’s two-year-old daughter attends Fueling Brains Academy’s downtown location and says he’s disheartened with the company’s plea.

“Disappointing. I feel like if they broke the bylaws they should be held personally accountable for that as the upper management and owners,” he said.

Wood says that a letter was emailed to parents on Friday informing them that Meals on Wheels would be providing meal services moving forward but would not be able to accommodate allergies and food sensitivities.

He believes that is another example of the company’s mismanagement around food service but stresses that he doesn’t blame those working at the daycares.

“The frontline workers, being the teachers and the campus administrators have been outstanding. They’ve really stood up from the challenges they’d faced during all of this,” he said.

Wood would like to see the company held accountable but does acknowledge he is concerned about the long term implications between the city charges and potential class action lawsuits.

“That’s hundreds of children now looking for a new daycare and we’re already facing a daycare challenge in Calgary. To find an early learning facility is difficult and the wait lists are very long.”

Fuming & Gillespie LLP says a statement of claim has been filed for a class action lawsuit and once pleadings close, a certification hearing will take place.

Katie McLean became part of the class action lawsuit after her two-year-old daughter became ill with E. coli.

“I think parents will just be really comforted by any form of accountability that we see come to this company because their conduct was not appropriate and we can’t just allow businesses to operate this way especially when it comes to the safety of our children,” she said.

“I think we’re extremely lucky and we’re all grateful there were no deaths from the situation but those damages can’t be left unheard and unseen and that’s why that accountability is so important to make up for that loss and those damages.”

Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, is surprised by the company's plea.

“It perhaps suggests that there’s more going on in the background than seen to be evident at face value,” she said.

Hardcastle says that one of the benefits of a case being so public facing is that it may lead other businesses to ensure they have the appropriate licenses and safety procedures in place.

“The prosecutions in this case by the city are more with the aim of punishment or deterrence. So, for example the idea would be that in charging people under legislation like this we’re prompting them to avoid not having proper licences in the future and also trying to deter more generally,” she said.

“The combination of the municipal fine and a judgement in a class action or settlement down the line could be very significant and we could see it very difficult for these individuals and this business to continue to pirate in light of hose significant financial implications.”

CTV News did reach out to Fueling Minds who says they cannot comment as the matter is before the courts.

A trial date has been set for Sept. 6, 2024.

There were at least 446 E. coli cases connected to the outbreak, which lasted eight weeks and saw 39 children and one adult hospitalized.

With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

Stay Connected