Coli outbreak in US: Likely source is leafy greens

Coli outbreak in US: Likely source is leafy greens

Canadian officials said today an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is over, but USA officials are continuing to investigate the deadly foodborne illness outbreak that they believe is linked to leafy greens.

That brings the total number of cases involving E. coli to 66 in the recent outbreak in the USA and Canada. Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure. Because leafy greens tend to have a short shelf life-and because the last known illness related to the outbreak occurred last month-it is likely that the contaminated food that's causing illness is no longer available in retail stores or foodservice establishments.

In an interview with NBC News, a CDC official said that even though Canadian authorities have linked the outbreak to romaine, USA food safety workers haven't been able to identify a single food consumed by everyone affected.

But today, the Centers for Disease Control says that a Consumer Reports story last week advising people to avoid romaine lettuce was too quick to pinpoint that particular ingredient as the culprit. One person has also died in Canada. "Right now the CDC is saying it could be other leafy greens, but until we have more corroborating evidence, we continue to think it prudent to avoid romaine lettuce for now".

This all began in December, when the Canadian Government warned consumers to avoid romaine due to potential contamination with E. coli. Thus, CDC is not recommending that US 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.

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Wendy's has not traced any E. coli infections to its customers and hasn't seen any issues with its supply chain, but decided not to take any risks.

The CDC says state and local health officials are interviewing patients to try to determine what they ate before getting sick. Most people recover from the illness in five to seven days but some develop a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be fatal.

However, officials indicated the outbreak in the United States may also be over soon. There has been one death in California, which was previously reported as connected to the outbreak. While the lettuce that may have caused the illnesses is no longer on the market, we do not know where the products were sold, or where the leafy green was grown, harvested, or processed. The strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly serious.

While many people associate E. coli and other foodborne illnesses with meat, in fact they often spread through contaminated produce. If you are concerned that you have an E. coli infection, talk to your healthcare provider.

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