Officials say to avoid romaine lettuce amid E. coli concerns

Over the past seven weeks, as Consumer Reports notes, 58 people in the US and Canada have become ill from a risky strain of E. coli bacteria, likely from eating romaine lettuce. In the USA, the infections have occurred in 13 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state). Five people in the USA received hospital care, and one has died, according to CDC. However, several of the USA cases have been caused by a bacterium with the same genetic "fingerprint" as the one in Canada.

"Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada". Two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

The PHAC has linked the outbreak to romaine lettuce, based on interviews with sick patients, and has urged Canadians to temporarily avoid eating romaine lettuce, though no products have been recalled.

"During a foodborne outbreak investigation, officials collect three types of data: epidemiologic, traceback, and food and environmental testing".

Consumer Reports is asking the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration to work harder at warning people about the issue, NBC News reports.

"The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada", the CDC said in its December 28 statement.

The CDC is aware of 17 infections right now in 13 states - a group that runs the geographic gamut from the West Coast, though the Rust Belt, to the top of New England.

Last week, Canada's Public Health Agency identified romaine lettuce as the origin of the country's outbreak.

"[To] say 'avoid romaine for now, ' I don't know if I have enough information to agree with that statement", said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

"The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk", Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, told Consumer Reports. The CDC is now interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week prior to getting sick. The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the USA outbreak.

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