E. coli O157 sickens 21 in Canada with link to romaine lettuce

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Outbreak of E. coli in Canada from contaminated romaine lettuce

Related tags Escherichia coli Foodborne illness

More than 20 cases of E. coli O157 have been linked to romaine lettuce in Canada.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said there are 21 cases from Quebec (three), New Brunswick (five) and Newfoundland and Labrador (13) and ten people have been hospitalised.

Individuals became sick in November and are aged between five and 72. The majority of cases (71%) are female.

PHAC said ‘many’ individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before illnesses occurred.

Product and source of contamination unknown

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and public health officials are trying to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to.

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 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.

Symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria and most end within five to 10 days.

Every year, more than four million Canadians get food poisoning. In recent years, 474 cases of VTEC O157 infection have been reported annually.

Frozen raw breaded chicken investigation

PHAC is also still investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis in six provinces with illness linked to frozen raw breaded chicken.

The 22 cases are from British Columbia (one), Alberta (one), Ontario (12), Quebec (three), New Brunswick (three) and Nova Scotia (two).

Eight people have been hospitalized and one person has died; however, it has not been determined if Salmonella contributed to the cause of death.

Janes Pub Style Chicken Burgers and Janes Pub Style Snacks Popcorn Chicken were recalled in October and specific dates tested positive for S. Enteritidis.

Positive food samples had the same genetic fingerprint (using whole genome sequencing) as the cases of human illness in the outbreak.

Individuals became sick between June and October.

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