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Notice: Romaine lettuce linked to outbreak of E. coli infections

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has linked a recent outbreak of E. coli to romaine lettuce. As of November 20, a total of 3 cases have been confirmed in Ontario and 15 in Quebec.

As the risk is ongoing, the PHAC is advising individuals in Ontario and Quebec to avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more information is gathered about the outbreak and the known causes of contamination.

Who is most at risk?

This outbreak strain known as E. coli O157 is more likely than other strains to cause severe illness. Pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, young children and the elderly are most at risk for developing serious complications. Most people who become ill from an E. coli infection will recover completely on their own. However, some people may have a more serious illness that requires hospital care, or develop long-lasting health effects.

The following tips will help reduce your risk of an E. coli infection, but they will not fully eliminate the risk of illness.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling lettuce.
  • Unwashed lettuce, including whole heads of lettuce sold in sealed bags, should be handled and washed using these steps:
    • Discard outer leaves of fresh lettuce.
    • Wash unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce. Washing it gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.
    • Keep rinsing your lettuce until all of the dirt has been washed away.
    • Don’t soak lettuce in a sink full of water. It can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
    • Store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Discard when leaves become wilted or brown.
    • Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops, cutting boards and storage containers before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination.

To learn more about the outbreak go to https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/public-health-notices/2018/outbreak-ecoli-infections-linked-romaine-lettuce.html