The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as the CDC) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (also known as the FDA) have all issued warnings to North American consumers: Don’t buy romaine lettuce – and, if you happen to have romaine lettuce sitting in your refrigerator, you should throw it away instead of eating it.
This warning comes amid concerns that the leafy, green vegetable may be contaminated with E. coli following a new outbreak across several U.S. states which infected 32 people and hospitalized 13, including those in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Our of the 32 to have become sick with the same strain of E. coli were also 18 individuals across two Canadian provinces – Ontario and Quebec. Similarly, you may have recalled a previous E. coli outbreak also linked to romaine lettuce back in 2016/2017 – and while it’s the same bacteria, the outbreak itself is different.
Because health organizations have yet to determine an originating distributor or source of this latest E. coli outbreak, they are warning all consumers to avoid all brands of romaine lettuce include any products that may contain romaine lettuce, whether it be whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, bags of pre-cut romaine lettuce, or salad mixes that contain romaine lettuce (such as spring and Caesar salad mixes.) They go on to recommend that retailers and restaurants should refrain from selling or serving romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and it is deemed safe to do so.
Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician practicing at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia (located near Vancouver) says that anyone who may have consumed romaine lettuce in recent days should also pay attention to any unusual symptoms they might be exhibiting. Some of the most common signs that you might be infected with E. coli include:
• Severe stomach cramps
These symptoms will generally occur 3 or 4 days after you’ve consumed the bacteria. In order to prevent dehydration from occurring, Dr. Ghahary recommends increasing your fluid intake to prevent dehydration, as well as getting plenty of rest to prevent fatigue. While most people will get better within 5 to 7 days, you should see a physician right away if your diarrhea persists for longer than than 3 days and is accompanied by blood in the stool, high fever, and persistent vomiting with the inability to keep down any liquids you consume. Being infected with E. coli is nothing to take lightly, and if left untreated to lead to a kidney-damaging condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.
The Public Health Agency of Canada will post any new updates regarding this outbreak on their website, which you can find by clicking here.