CDC Investigators Searching For Source Of E. Coli-Contaminated Lettuce

Toni Houston
January 5, 2018

Consumer Reports pressured the CDC and FDA to do more to protect shoppers, but the produce was still on USA grocery store shelves Thursday.

Five people have been hospitalized in the US and one has died, the Consumer Reports article said. At the time the Public Health Agency of Canada had identified the source of the outbreak as romaine lettuce.

"This strain of E. coli causes more outbreaks than all other strains combined, so it's the big problem", said Herb Schellhorn, a microbiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, who specializes in the study of E. coli and other water- and food-borne pathogens.

"CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine".

Because a US source hasn't been identified, the CDC has been unable to issue advice on food choices, but Consumer Reports is advising people avoid romaine lettuce for the time being.

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

"The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk", Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, told Consumer Reports.

He said so far, data aren't sufficient to link the USA cases to romaine lettuce. The infections within the USA have occurred in 13 states, including NY. Health officials assess all of these data to try to find the likely source of the outbreak. "This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available".

NBC reported that it could take weeks to to track down the source of an outbreak because most food is shipped to central locations from various farms, where it is processed, packaged and redistributed.

During the past seven weeks, 58 people in the USA and Canada have become ill from the strain of E. coli O157: H7.

The PHAC has linked the outbreak to romaine lettuce, based on interviews with sick patients, and has urged Canadians to temporarily avoid eating romaine lettuce, though no products have been recalled. "Consumers should also check salad blends and mixes, and avoid those that contain romaine". This strand of E.Coli has caused tainted produce, including romaine lettuce, in 2006 and between 2011 and 2013.

Adam Loo, the culinary operations manager for the Murphy Hospitality Group, said he's been monitoring the situation closely since he found out about the outbreak in November.

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