Public health officials in the U.S. and Canada issued a warning Tuesday against eating romaine lettuce while they investigate an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened 50 people in the two countries.
The alerts cover all forms of romaine, including whole heads, hearts, bags, mixes and Caesar salad. At this time, Canadian and U.S. health official have not pinpointed the source of the contamination.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in its alert that consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home “should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.” The CDC also said that refrigerator drawers and shelves where romaine lettuce had been stored should be sanitized.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is currently investigating 15 E. coli cases in Quebec and three in Ontario, and the CDC said that the outbreak affected 32 people in 11 states between Oct. 8 and 31. No deaths have been reported.
The CDC said the current outbreak is unrelated to another multi-state rash of E. coli infections related to romaine lettuce earlier this year that left five people dead and sickened nearly 200. The origin of that contamination was traced to irrigation water in the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
The PHAC said that analysis shows the illnesses reported in the latest outbreak are genetically related to illnesses reported in a previous E. coli outbreak from December 2017 that affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S. “This tells us that the same strain of E. coli is causing illness in Canada and the U.S. as was seen in 2017 and it suggests there may be a reoccurring source of contamination.”
PHAC said Individuals in the Ontario and Quebec cases reported eating romaine lettuce at home, as well as in prepared salads from grocery stores, and in menu items ordered at restaurants and fast food chains.