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Canada says outbreak over

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Jan. 10 that the E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce appears to be over. However, in the United States, state and federal agencies stopped short of making that declaration, stating that the investigation is ongoing.

PHAC has issued an updated public health notice stating that the E. coli O157:H7 foodborne illness outbreak in Canada, which it said was associated with Romaine lettuce consumption, appears to be over. PHAC is also advising Canadian consumers that they no longer need to consider not consuming Romaine lettuce.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill. CDC said leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale. Thus, CDC is not recommending that U.S. residents avoid any particular food given the short shelf life of leafy greens and because a specific type of leafy greens has not been identified.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said its outbreak investigation team is working with CDC and state and local officials to determine what ill people ate, where they bought it and the distribution chain — all with the goal of learning where these foods were produced, to see if there is any common food or point where the food might have become contaminated. To date, FDA said it has not identified a common or single point of origin for the food that made people ill.

In response to the statements made Jan. 10 by U.S. and Canadian health officials, a coalition of produce industry associations from both countries issued guidance related to the recent outbreak. The coalition, made up of the Arizona and California Leafy Greens Marketing Associations, the United Fresh Produce Association, the Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and Western Growers Association, stated:

  • Public health agencies in both the United States and Canada are informing consumers that there are no concerns about consuming any particular food, while they continue their investigations into what caused this E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that began in November.
  • Based on these statements, both governments have concluded that the food responsible for this foodborne illness outbreak is no longer in the market.
  • The industry associations are committed to working with government agencies in both the United States and Canada to assist with the ongoing investigations.