Romaine lettuce possibly linked to E. coli outbreak in U.S., Canada

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(1/4/2018) - Some 54 people have contracted an E. coli infection, possibly after eating romaine lettuce, since November.

Thirteen cases have been reported in the United States, including one in Michigan, and 41 cases have been reported in Canada, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says the genetic makeup of the E. coli reported in the U.S. and Canada is similar, so the source of the outbreak likely is related.

Public Health Agency Canada says on its website that it traced the cause of the outbreak there to romaine lettuce. The illnesses were centered in five provinces on the east side of the country.

The U.S. cases are spread across the country from California to Virginia and into the Northeast. The CDC was still investigating the source of the illnesses by interviewing patients to find out what they ate before getting sick.

Canadian officials have advised residents in the five eastern provinces to avoid eating romaine lettuce until they can narrow down the specific source. The CDC hasn't issued a similar advisory for Americans while the investigation continued.

Romaine lettuce recalls have occurred in the U.S. before, most often linked to animal waste in the soil used as fertilizer or food service workers not washing their hands before handling it.

Public Health Agency of Canada is advising its residents who want to eat romaine lettuce to discard the outer leaves of each head and thoroughly wash it before eating.

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