Outbreak News Today

Canada E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, 21 sickened

Twenty-one people in three Canadian provinces have been sickened with Escherichia coli O157, or E. coli O157, according to health officials and the culprit appears to be romaine lettuce.

Image/BlackRiv via pixabay

Currently, there are 21 cases of E. coli O157 illness under investigation in three provinces: Quebec (3), New Brunswick (5), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). Individuals became sick in November 2017. Ten individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between the ages of 5 and 72 years of age. The majority of cases (71%) are female.

Many individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before their illnesses occurred. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to.

At this time, there are no product recalls associated with this outbreak. The outbreak investigation is ongoing.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the intestines of cattle, poultry and other animals. A common source of E. coli illness is raw fruits and vegetables that have come in contact with feces from infected animals.

Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, contaminated water, animals or improperly composted manure. Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting the produce. Contamination in lettuce is also possible at the grocery store, in the refrigerator, or from counters and cutting boards through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood. Most E. coli strains are harmless to humans, but some varieties cause illness.