As of Jan. 21, 30 people in three Canadian provinces had been sickened by one strain of E. coli. No deaths have been reported. The illnesses began Dec. 22.
Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Patricia El-Hinnawy confirmed the agency initiated an investigation, but declined to provide details because it is ongoing.
As of Jan. 17, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency declined to identify who supplied the lettuce, except to say it came from California.
“There are a number of different suppliers and the source of the contamination has not yet been determined,” said CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier.
FreshPoint Toronto, a subsidiary of Sysco Corp., Houston, distributed the lettuce to restaurants, hotels and other foodservice customers. It voluntarily began recalling the lettuce Jan. 10 after the CFIA notified the company the lettuce was the likely cause of the E. coli outbreak.
When additional cases were confirmed, FreshPoint expanded the recall on Jan. 13 to include all lettuce products produced from the same raw material during the same time frame.
FreshPoint Toronto’s general manager, Dan Wilson, referred questions about the recall to Sysco Corp.
Charley Wilson, vice president of corporate communications for Sysco, said Jan. 14 that the ongoing investigation limits the company’s ability to comment.
“FreshPoint has fully cooperated with and assisted Canadian food inspection authorities in this investigation,” Wilson said. “FreshPoint regularly goes to extensive lengths to ensure that consumers receive safe and healthy fresh food products through its suppliers, state-of-the-art processing facilities and distribution centers.”
“The key for us is once the investigation is done, if it shows we need to change or add anything to the agreement, we stand ready to do so,” Horsfall said.
Canadian food and health officials reported there is no indication any of the recalled products were distributed to grocery stores, so they did not issue a public health recall alert.
The CFIA website lists 13 Sysco brand foodservice salad products, two products sent to Burger King, one product to Pizza Hut, one for KFC/Taco Bell’s parent company YUM! Brands and one product with the FreshPoint Inc. brand. All of those products had use-by dates of Jan. 8 or Jan. 10.
The E. coli cases reported by Canadian agencies span New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. The CFIA recall details show the lettuce was also distributed to foodservice customers in Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
A timeline of the investigation is on the agency’s website at: http://tinyurl.com/recall-timeline.
Laboratory analysis has shown that the E. coli cases are linked and an epidemiological assessment by Canadian health officials identified that lettuce distributed to certain restaurants is the likely cause, according to the CFIA.