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Hi everyone, Mark Iype in Edmonton today.

The company at the centre of an E. coli outbreak that sickened hundreds of children at several Calgary daycares linked by a shared kitchen this fall pleaded not guilty to a dozen municipal bylaw charges on Tuesday.

The court appearance was the first for Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors, Faisal Alimohd and Anil Karim, who were charged by the City of Calgary in September with serving food at child-care centres without the proper business licence.

They face 12 charges and fines totalling up to $120,000 with a trial date now set for Sept. 6, 2024.

Meanwhile, an investigation by Calgary police continues.

Alberta Health Services declared the E. coli outbreak over on Oct. 31, roughly eight weeks after the original cases was confirmed. The illnesses were connected to six Fueling Brains locations and five other child-care sites, all of which had snacks and meals prepared by the same Fueling Minds catering kitchen. Nearly 500 people, mostly children, were infected, making the incident one of the largest outbreaks of pediatric E. coli recorded in Canada.

With reporting by Nathan Vanderklippe, Alanna Smith and Dave McGinn this past week, The Globe and Mail published its look into the company at the source of the outbreak, speaking to parents and former employees about how the daycares operated in Alberta, and how the owners expanded the Fueling Brains brand to Texas.

With hundreds of children under their care in Alberta, the owners pursued an expansion plan south of the border with mixed success, promising school boards high-tech results in part with the use of brain-scanning technology the owners claimed could track a child’s development.

While the owners of the company did not give an interview, they did provide a statement answering some of our questions, including about the expansion and the use of technology.

“Our innovative, science-based learning system has earned recognition for its effectiveness in achieving educational goals,” the company said. “Consequently, it has been embraced by numerous school districts across North America.”

Most parents The Globe spoke with were happy to have good child care and there were few suspicions that anything was amiss until the first children started to get sick at the start of September. But some, in retrospect, did have questions about what was going on behind the scenes.

“Where were they using our money? … Were they underinvesting in the operations of this kitchen, in terms of staff training, equipment, maintenance?” asked Keith Edwards, whose two children attended Fueling Brains in Calgary. “Knowing that perhaps they were distracted, or focusing on things that were completely separate from running a daycare as really central to their mission, is concerning.”

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief Mark Iype. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.

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