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Canada continues to monitor deadly E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce in U.S.

globalnews.ca by Adam Frisk, May 4, 2018

The first death in the United States' growing e-coli outbreak is raising new concerns about the source of the contaminated lettuce blamed for the infections.

Canadian government officials are still monitoring the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce in U.S. after one death was reported, but no recalls have been issued north of the border.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 120 people have fallen ill in 25 states as a result of the outbreak. The death of a California resident has been linked to the outbreak.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Friday it continues to monitor the situation south of the border and “if it is determined that contaminated lettuce has been imported into Canada, the Agency will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling the product as required.”

A spokesperson from Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed to Global News that the agency “is working closely with its partners to determine whether there are any laboratory-confirmed Canadian cases with a link to the U.S. outbreak.”

The CDC reiterated its advice of not eating or buying romaine lettuce, normally used in salads, unless the source of the lettuce can be confirmed. Health officials have tied the E. coli outbreak to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Ariz.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, several provinces import lettuce, including romaine, from Arizona, but it’s unclear from what region of the state. Ontario alone has imported 10 million kilograms of lettuce from the state in the first two months of 2018.

Health Canada advises consumers to follow safe food handling tips when preparing lettuce. Unwashed lettuce, including whole heads of lettuce sold in sealed bags, should be handled and washed using these steps:

Discard outer leaves.

Wash unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use produce cleansers – washing lettuce gently with water is equally effective.

Keep rinsing lettuce until all 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.