1 dead, dozens sickened after romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak in US

2007 a worker harvests romaine lettuce in Salinas Calif

In the US, government health officials are investigating the outbreaks, but have stopped short of recommending people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food. Still, the CDC says it does not have enough information to recommend people in the US avoid any particular food.

Even though US authorities can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce caused the outbreak, Consumer Reports urged a "greater degree of caution", about the lettuce because it's usually consumed raw.

Five people infected with the unsafe bacteria have been hospitalized, according to Ian Williams, chief of the CDC's Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch.

That's because officials in Canada have not determined the exact source of the romaine lettuce involved in the E. coli outbreak. "This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available".

Ian Williams, PhD, chief of the CDC's Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, told CIDRAP News that the last illness onset was Dec 8, and though cases are still being reported, the pace of new reports appears to be slowing.

Boston Pizza International Inc. has also temporarily suspended the sale of all types of romaine lettuce at the pizza joint's locations in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada as of December 26, said spokeswoman Alexandra Cygal in an email.

Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, said the US Food and Drug Administration should follow Canada's example and immediately warn the public about the potential risk from romaine lettuce.

"This time of year, most of our lettuce will come from southern places ... so if it's affecting both countries, it may be from California or Mexico or other countries that produce romaine lettuce", said Schellhorn. The CDC is now interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week prior to getting sick. So for now, Consumer Reports says people should assume that any romaine lettuce, even when sold in bags and packages, might be contaminated.

The agency linked the outbreak to romaine lettuce and encouraged individuals in the five provinces with known cases to consider eating other varieties of lettuce instead. "Consumers should also check salad blends and mixes, and avoid those that contain romaine".

Chapman suspects that officials will make an announcement soon about whether the USA and Canadian outbreaks are indeed the same.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 7 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.

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