Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and 12 U.S. states have all been affected by the latest E. coli outbreak. And for the third time this year, the culprit is presumed to be romaine lettuce.
Authorities at the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said they suspect the contaminated lettuce is coming from growers in California’s Central Coast region but have yet to confirm the specific source.
As a result, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will take steps to keep products from areas identified by the FDA from coming into Canada.
Although there’s been no official recall by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), grocers have pulled the produce off their shelves as a precaution.
According to the PHAC most people who become ill from an E. coli infection will recover completely on their own. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, mild fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Serious symptoms, or those that persist after five to 10 days, should be addressed with a health care professional.
In rare cases, someone may develop life-threatening symptoms, including stroke, kidney failure and seizures, which could result in death. Those most at risk for complications are pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults.
So, for now, Caesar salad is off the table — literally.
It’s estimated that 20 to 30 per cent of E. coli poisoning is caused by contaminated vegetables — and most often it’s lettuce and other leafy greens.
One of the reasons those greens are so good for us — high water content — also makes the crop more vulnerable.