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Romaine Lettuce E. coli Scare Appears Over, says Public Health

11 January 2018

Health officials don't solve every outbreak.

These seven new reports bring the total number of cases involving E. coli to 66 in the US and Canada, with two of those cases being deadly.

No common supplier distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of this outbreak. In Canada there are 42 victims across five provinces.

Illnesses began on dates ranging from November 15, 2017 to December 12, 2017.

Nine people were hospitalized, including one in California that died. Some individuals may develop a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which can be life-threatening, although most people recover in a few weeks.

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Clusters of unrelated sick people who ate at the same restaurant, shopped at the same grocery store, or attended the same event.

To view a larger version of this information graphic, please click on the image.

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

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. Those samples are "closely related genetically" to the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill persons in Canada. Of 13 people interviewed, all 13 reported eating leafy greens.

However, James E. Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety Research and Testing at Consumer Reports, cautions that the CDC's position on this could give consumers a false sense of security. Canada has also announced that they believe the outbreak in that country is over. Consumer Reports advised people to continue to avoid romaine lettuce. Today the Canadian officials revealed that all food samples tested negative. Officials thoroughly investigate each outbreak, and they are constantly developing new ways to investigate and solve outbreaks faster.

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In response to these latest statements and developments, United Fresh released its own statement yesterday in response.

The Public Health Agency is still advising Canadians to always follow safe food handling tips for preparing lettuce, but says it's no longer advising consumers in the affected provinces to consider types of lettuce other than romaine.

"Based on these statements, both governments have concluded that the food responsible for this foodborne illness outbreak is no longer in the market".

There is a very different view at Consumers Union, which is the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports. "In order to ensure that this threat to consumers' health won't continue or happen again, the government needs to identify the source".

"This is a unsafe strain of E. coli that can cause severe illness and even death", said Halloran's statement.

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Romaine Lettuce E. coli Scare Appears Over, says Public Health