(UPDATED Jan. 2) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says preliminary test results from an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. point to a common source of infection with an outbreak in Canada that’s been linked to romaine lettuce.
Canadian officials have advised consumers in affected areas to avoid romaine, but the CDC’s Dec. 28 notice said a definite source has not been found, and it is “unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”
Canadian health officials first announced the outbreak on Dec. 11, and as of Dec. 28 — when the CDC announced its findings — no source of the romaine had been named and no company had issued a recall.
Canadian retailer Sobeys, which has about 1,500 stores under numerous banners, announced Dec. 22 it had pulled all romaine products from shelves as a cautionary measure. Media reports said the retailer pulled more than 300 romaine products.
On Dec. 29, Canadian restaurant chain Jungle Jim's Eatery announced it was pulling romaine lettuce from menus at all 26 locations until the issue is resolved, according to media reports.
The CDC notice reported 17 people in 13 states were infected in the U.S. outbreak, and preliminary testing results “show the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.”
The CDC is performing whole genome sequencing on samples from the U.S. cases to further the investigation, according to the notice.
Illness onset dates in the U.S. range from Nov. 15 to Dec. 8. In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada reports illnesses started in November and ended in early December. The Canadian agency added 1 more case on Dec. 28, bringing the total to 41 illnesses from five eastern provinces. One person has died as a result of the E. coli outbreak, according to the agency.
In the U.S., state and local health officials are interviewing sick people to document what they consumed before the outbreak began. That process is ongoing, and interviews focus on all foods, not just romaine and other leafy greens, according to the CDC.
The CDC will provide updates as more information is available, according to the notice.