Romaine Lettuce Is the Likely Source of a Dangerous E. Coli Outbreak

From TIME - January 4, 2018

More than 50 people have been hospitalized and two people have died from dangerous E. coli infections over the past seven weeks in the United States and Canada, according to health officials from both countries. Contaminated romaine lettuce has been identified as the source of the Canadian outbreak, which involves at least 41 illnesses and one death.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has advised people living in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to consider avoiding romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and its cause.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet identified the cause of the 17 illnesses and one death reported in the United States, but said last week that the strain of virus found in both countriesE. coli O157:H7is the same. Preliminary results show that the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, the agency said in a statement on December 28, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.

The CDC says it is unable to recommend whether people should avoid a particular food while the source of the outbreak is still under investigation. But at least one large U.S. organization has taken a preemptive step: Yesterday, Consumer Reports advised Americans to stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and products are removed from store shelves.

Even though we cant say with 100% certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that romaine lettuce is almost always consumed raw, said James Rogers, director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports, in a statement.


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