See related story: Industry adopts new label standard, product returns to stores
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has added to the number of cases of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce in that country.
As of Nov. 23, the CFIA reported 22 Canadians have been reported to have fallen ill from eating romaine, up from 18 reported on Nov. 20, when U.S. and Canadian agencies first reported the outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not increased the 32 cases reported on Nov. 22.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted updates on the outbreak on Thanksgiving, including a statement that the origin is most likely California, and that the agency might have more to report on the location Nov. 26.
The CFIA on Nov. 23 reported that due to recent E. coli outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada, the agency has stepped up testing of imported romaine lettuce. The has had microbiological surveillance testing protocols for imported food before an outbreak a year ago and the current one.
Since April 2017, the CFIA tested more than 2,000 samples of imported vegetables and salads, according to a statement from Deputy Chief Food Safety Office Aline Dimitri.
“The fact that there have been no positive results despite this level of testing confirms that lettuce has a very low level of contamination,” according to Dimitri’s statement. “We know Canadians want reassurances about the safety of the foods they eat and feed their families.”
In response to the outbreak, the CFIA has increased its testing of romaine throughout Canada. Samples come from different growing regions and harvest periods, according to the notice.
U.S. and Canadian health agencies continue to warn residents against eating romaine.
“In the case of the current situation, epidemiological evidence has pointed to romaine lettuce as the common product,” according to Dimitri’s statement. “However, no common source of contamination has been identified so far.”
According to one of Gottlieb’s tweets, the FDA is considering new labeling standards on salads and leafy green products, requiring location of harvest, and not just the country, to help in traceback investigations.