USA health officials have not recommended that people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food, but Consumer Reports' food safety experts are advising that people stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified.
Because a USA source hasn't been identified, the CDC has been unable to issue advice on food choices, but Consumer Reports is advising people avoid romaine lettuce for the time being. He advises that people in these groups should be particularly vigilant about avoiding romaine lettuce. Five people in the US have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak, which has occurred over the past seven weeks, Consumer Reports said.
So far 17 illnesses have been reported in the United States, including three in California, according to the CDC. Infections with E. coli O157 can be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, the very young and immune-compromised people, such as cancer patients, Williams said.
According to the CDC, the type of E. coli making people sick genetically matches the bacteria involved in the Canadian outbreak. "At this time, we are still investigating, and when we have information that consumers can use - such as any foods to avoid - we will share it immediately", the FDA said in a statement issued late Thursday.
The strain of E. coli that's sickening people now produces a toxin than can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and death, Consumer Reports said.
"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. Five eastern provinces have been affected, with the highest number of cases, 14, recorded in Quebec, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (13), Ontario (8), New Brunswick (5) and Nova Scotia (1). One person has died. The majority of these Canadian cases - almost three-quarters - are in females.
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. James Rogers, PhD, the group's director of food safety, said that although the source hasn't been identified, a greater degree of caution is needed, given that lettuce is nearly always eaten raw.
Williams explained that with cases "spread out all over the place" and people having to report what they ate, in many cases over a month ago, it's been hard to identify the source in Canada and the US.
"Canada has not been able to get upstream, either".
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. Anyone who is concerned that they have an E. coli infection should talk to their healthcare provider.
Since lettuce is suspected to be the cause of the current outbreak, would it help to wash your greens before eating? Loo said he's been in constant communication with head chefs and staff to make sure they are practising proper washing procedures and are aware of the risks associated with contaminated lettuce.
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