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Romaine lettuce likely cause of E coli illnesses, deaths in US, Canada
Monday, 08 January, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Los Angeles
Over the past seven weeks, at least 58 people in the United States and Canada have been sickened and two have died from a dangerous strain of Escherichia coli (E coli) bacteria, likely from romaine lettuce.

In the United States, 17 illnesses across 13 states have been associated with E coli infections. Five of the patients have been hospitalised and one has died, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Canada, 41 cases have been reported, and one person has died. The Public Health Agency of Canada has been investigating the outbreak of E coli infections in several provinces.

Classified as 0157:H7, the strain of E coli in this new outbreak produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and even death. Leafy greens, including romaine lettuce, were the cause of E coli outbreaks in 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

While CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common that was ingested by those who were taken ill, including leafy greens and romaine, the Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the food poisoning outbreak in Canada.

Whole genome sequencing was being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give information on whether these illnesses were related to the illnesses in Canada.

According to CDC, preliminary results showed that the type of E coli making people sick in both countries was closely related genetically, meaning the ill people were more likely to share a common source of infection.

However, on its website, it said, “We have not identified a source of the infections, thus is unable to recommend whether US residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available.”

Consumer Reports is now calling on the Food and Drug Administration and CDC to do more to warn the public about the dangers of the outbreak.

“In the United States, government health officials are investigating the outbreaks, but have stopped short of recommending people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food,” said the non-profit organisation.

The consumer advocacy group advised that people stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and the offending product is removed from store shelves.

“Even though we can't say with 100 per cent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E coli outbreak in the United States, a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Rogers, director, food safety and research, Consumer Reports.

E coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhoea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E coli that can cause diarrhoea can be transmitted either through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

CDC estimated that each year, 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses, 1,28,000 are hospitalised and about 3,000 die.

(Source: Xinhua)
 
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