Food safety investigation: outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce

Food safety investigation: outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce

There have been 19 confirmed cases of E. coli illness investigated in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick as of Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a public health notice.

Three more cases of E. coli have been confirmed in Quebec and Ontario, putting the Canadian total at 22.

USA and Canadian authorities believe the current outbreak, first reported in early October, is unrelated to spring's Yuma outbreak.

The CDC said about 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses every year - 46 percent of them from eating leafy vegetables and other produce.

The alerts, issued as millions of Americans plan their Thanksgiving Day menus, covered all forms of romaine, including whole heads, hearts, bags, mixes and Caesar salad.

Experts have revealed that simply washing lettuce may reduce e-coli risk, but it certainly won't eliminate the risk. If the source can be identified, the investigation involves verifying that product that is now in the marketplace from that grower is safe.

Scott Horsfall, the CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, said most of the romaine on the market when the outbreak began was grown in his state.

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"At this stage in the investigation, the most efficient way to ensure that contaminated romaine [lettuce] is off the market would be for [the] industry to voluntarily withdraw product from the market, and to withhold distribution of romaine until public health authorities can ensure the outbreak is over and/or until FDA can identify a specific source of contamination", the FDA stated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises consumers not to buy or eat any romaine lettuce, and restaurants and retailers not to sell or serve any.

But the FDA said it is working to trace the source of the E. coli-tainted lettuce.

The illnesses that were detected as part of this E. coli O157 outbreak occurred over a period of a few weeks from mid-October to early November. Ill people range in age from 7 to 84 years, with a median age of 24.

We know Canadians want reassurances about the safety of the foods they eat and feed their families. The sampling program involves romaine lettuce from different growing regions and different harvest periods. Contamination in lettuce is also possible at the grocery store, in the refrigerator, or from counters and cutting boards through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood. Given that this is a very unsafe outbreak of E-coli it doesn't just cause Gastroenteritis, there is actual kidney failures happening.

"They're concerned they may get sick, especially this time of year so close to the holidays". Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach.

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