Saturday , October 23 2021

Roman lettuce is safe to eat again, health officials say


OTTAWA – With no new cases of E. coli linked to the Roma lettuce detected since mid-November, green foliage is likely to be safe to eat again, the Canadian Public Health Agency said on Monday.

In the previous month, 29 people became ill with lettuce bacteria, especially in Quebec. A handful became ill in Ontario and New Brunswick, and three in British Columbia after traveling.

The contaminated lettuce appears to have come from three California counties and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has banned the importation of lettuce grown there. The US Food and Drug Administration says 59 people have been sick in the same outbreak in the United States.

E. coli, present in feces and sometimes in raw meat, can cause serious digestive problems, including cramps and bloody diarrhea. The government said no one died in the outbreak, but 10 people were hospitalized in Canada and two had severe and long-lasting complications.

The bacteria in this outbreak is a genetic combination for E. coli involved in a similar outbreak in 2017, the health agency said.

"This tells us that the same E. coli strain is causing illnesses in Canada and the US, as seen in 2017, and suggests that there may be a recurring source of contamination. Researchers are using evidence collected in both outbreaks to help to identify possible causes of contamination at these events, "the agency said.

Researchers still do not know exactly how the lettuce was contaminated, but the agency said people are sick at home and in restaurants. Some people bought whole heads of lettuce; others got salad mixes.

"Retailers and industry partners continue to bring lettuce into the Canadian market from growing regions not associated with the outbreak and to help consumers easily identify the origin of romaine lettuce in the Canadian market," the public health agency said.

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