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Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Medical | By Garry George

Coli Outbreak 'Likely' Over; Canada Declares Romaine Lettuce Safe To Eat

Coli Outbreak 'Likely' Over; Canada Declares Romaine Lettuce Safe To Eat

Yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada declared that the recent Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce appears to be over.

According to the agency, there have been 42 cases of E. coli across the country as of Wednesday, including eight in Ontario. One person has died in California.

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.

While the outbreak does appear to be associated with leafy greens, according to CDC and FDA statements released yesterday, US health officials have not confirmed a specific type, nor have any food recalls been issued. "Canada has identified the source as romaine lettuce", says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports. CDC should conduct the investigation while providing timely public information, she recommended. This percentage was not significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed. Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the USA infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that US residents avoid any particular food at this time. "For instance, if the equipment at a processing plant is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, new product could become a source of further infections". CDC continues to work with regulatory partners in several states, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify the source. Most people recover from the illness in five to seven days but some develop a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be fatal.

"Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada", the CDC said in a statement.

Canada also experienced an outbreak and identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but where the romaine lettuce came from or how it became contaminated is unknown. The strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly serious. There has been one death in California, which was previously reported as connected to the outbreak.

You can protect yourself by washing your hands thoroughly before and after preparing or eating food.

Produce trade organizations issued a statement that, as of last week, no public health agency had contacted romaine lettuce growers or processors and asked to stop shipping product. Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest.

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