Canada says outbreak over

Georgia Reed
January 12, 2018

Canadian officials said today an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is over, but US officials are continuing to investigate the deadly foodborne illness outbreak that they believe is linked to leafy greens. As of January 10, 2018, there were 42 cases of E. coli O157 illness reported in five eastern provinces: Ontario (8), Quebec (15), New Brunswick (5), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13).

Even if the outbreak was caused by lettuce, it's unlikely the perishable product would still be available for sale or in a home refrigerator as the last illness onset date was reported to be December 8, the groups said.

In an interview with NBC News, a CDC official said that even though Canadian authorities have linked the outbreak to romaine, US food safety workers haven't been able to identify a single food consumed by everyone affected.

Last week, Consumer Reports advised people to avoid eating romaine while the investigation proceeded. One person has also died in Canada.

"Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale", according to today's media statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a microbiologist, affirmed DeLauro's sentiments in a statement to Consumer Reports: "The delay in CDC or FDA providing updated information to consumers is very disappointing.Timely information is critical to avoid potentially contaminated foods and I call on FDA to take all necessary steps to protect public health". Five (56%) of nine ill people specifically reported eating romaine lettuce.

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With the investigation ongoing the CDC is not recommending people avoid any particular food at this time.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea (often bloody) and stomach cramps.

The CDC says state and local health officials are interviewing patients to try to determine what they ate before getting sick. Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure. There is 1 reported death. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak.

To help prevent E. coli infection, wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing and eating food.

If you are concerned that you might have an E. coli infection, talk to your health care provider.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued its first announcement about an E coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce on December 11. Romaine lettuce is mostly eaten raw and washing it or any produce tainted with E. coli will not remove the harmful bacteria.

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