Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Safety Experts Say Avoid Romaine Lettuce If You're Not Into E. Coli

Safety Experts Say Avoid Romaine Lettuce If You're Not Into E. Coli

The outbreak has killed one person in each country and sickened at least 58 people, Consumer Reports said.

Another possibility is that the E. coli strain causing illness in the United States is actually slightly different from the strain in Canada. The infections within the US have occurred in 13 states, including NY. However, Sobeys stores have started selling romaine lettuce again after tests by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency came back negative for E. coli.

- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a multi-state outbreak of E. coli infections.

According to Consumer Reports, the unsafe strain of bacteria has sent five people to the hospital and killed one person in the U.S. Another patient reportedly died of the illness in Canada, where the source of the bacteria was tracked down to the leafy greens.

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Authorities in Canada are also investigating an outbreak of E. coli infections in some of its provinces, the CDC said.

Canadian health officials have urged consumers in the Atlantic provinces to avoid the leafy green until the source of the infection can be identified with certainty. But, so far investigators with the CDC in the US and the Public Health Agency of Canada have found 58 people became ill after eating contaminated lettuce in the past few weeks.

"Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the USA, a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that romaine lettuce is nearly always consumed raw", said James Roger, food safety director at Consumer Reports as NBC notes.

"Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the USA, a greater degree of caution is appropriate [in this case] given that lettuce is nearly always consumed raw", James Rogers, director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, told Consumer Reports.

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Those most at risk are the young, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems. He advises that people in these groups should be particularly vigilant about avoiding romaine lettuce. In the US, illnesses were from November 15 through December 8. The U.S. investigators say that means the same food source is likely involved. The CDC said, however, in its release that because it had not yet identified a source of the infections, it was unable to recommend whether US residents should avoid a particular food.

Williams explained that with cases "spread out all over the place" and people having to report what they ate, in many cases over a month ago, it's been hard to identify the source in Canada and the US.

Chapman suspects that officials will make an announcement soon about whether the USA and Canadian outbreaks are indeed the same. It's possible that a single source of contamination - such as a contaminated water supply - could affect different food products, Chapman said.

"[To] say 'avoid romaine for now, ' I don't know if I have enough information to agree with that statement", said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

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