A number of people in the United States and Canada have fallen ill over the past seven weeks as a result of eating romaine lettuce.
Food safety experts at Consumer Reports this week called upon the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to suggest Americans avoid eating romaine lettuce until a pernicious E. coli outbreak can be sourced and dealt with.
In Canada, 41 cases have been reported and one person has died.
Genome sequencing done by the agency has shown the bacteria infecting those in the USA is genetically similar to the one observed in Canada. Other states with single cases included Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington, according to the release.
CDC officials are still investigating, but officials say the likely cause of the outbreak is romaine lettuce.
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The CDC last reported on the outbreak on December 28.
The consumer advocacy group believes USA health officials should be sending a stronger message to stay away from the popular salad green as they investigate the string of illnesses. "CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine", it added.
So far, authorities in Canada have pointed to Romaine lettuce as the likely source of the infection, while authorities in the United States are still now conducting an investigation that includes interviewing the infected people to determine the meals they consumed in the week prior to the onset of the illness. That means people falling ill are more likely to share a common source of infection.
Consumer Reports said people should err on the side of caution and throw out romaine lettuce. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. But there are a few forms that can cause diseases. However, there are certain strains of E. coli that can cause illnesses such as the Shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli, which is often heard of in relation to food-related outbreaks.
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So far 17 illnesses have been reported in the United States, including three in California, according to the CDC. He advises that people in these groups should be particularly vigilant about avoiding romaine lettuce.
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