Coli Outbreak is "Likely" Leafy Greens While Canada Declares Outbreak Over

Phillip Cunningham
January 12, 2018

The FDA Commissioner tweeted a comment yesterday on the deadly E. coli O157:H7 HUS outbreak in the United States that may be linked to romaine lettuce.

The last reported illness in the United States was on December 12, suggesting that the risk of buying food contaminated in the current outbreak had passed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Wednesday. Leafy greens such as lettuce typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, officials say it's likely that the contaminated greens are no longer available for sale.

The CDC's investigation has not identified a specific type, brand, or producer of romaine or any other leafy greens, which Wise says has made it hard to home in on a source. The food-safety experts at leading consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports advised avoiding romaine lettuce, any products with romaine in them, a warning reiterated on Wednesday evening.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in the United States is closely related genetically to the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in Canada.

In the US, the FDA, which had not posted any public information about the outbreak until today, is assisting the CDC, but has virtually nothing to report.

She said American consumers "deserve more than this slow and insufficient response" and that families are "now left wondering if the food they are eating is safe".

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

Wendy's has not traced any E. coli infections to its customers and hasn't seen any issues with its supply chain, but decided not to take any risks. CDC continues to work with regulatory partners in several states, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify the source. Canada pointed to romaine lettuce as the source of its outbreak.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued its first announcement about an E coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce on December 11. There's no official government recall in the United States - yet. Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest. At least 41 people were sickened in that country, with one death. The strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly serious. You can also wash counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods. Attorney Fred Pritzker and his team recently won $7.5 million for young client whose kidneys failed because of hemolytic uremic syndrome after an E. coli O157:H7 infection.

For the record, symptoms of E. coli begin two to eight days after consuming the bacteria, notes CNN.

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