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Canadian E. coli Outbreak Declared Over

Dec 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Canadian E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened dozens of diners who patronized separate eating establishments is now being declared over by Ontario’s Ministry of Health, The Saint Catherines Standard is now reporting.  According to The Standard, bit has been over 20 days since the last “probable outbreak-related case” was discovered.

The Standard said that 56 people were sickened after eating at Little Red Rooster in Niagara-on-the-Lake and M. T. Bellies Tap and Grillhouse in Welland this autumn.  However, health officials confirm that neither restaurant is the source of the contamination, citing California-imported romaine lettuce as the likely culprit.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces and have been known to cause contaminations in meat, produce, and water supplies.  While some E. coli strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin-producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli.  Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is part of this group, is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreak, and was to blame in the Canadian outbreaks.  E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.  More and more, E. coli is turning up in produce and water and seems to be sweeping North America in recent months with outbreaks popping up in a variety of states in the U.S. and Canada.  E. coli taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the Shiga-producing toxins that has been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death.

Food borne contaminations are exacerbated with a food path that is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters.  Couple this with the overarching problem with infectious diseases, which are now becoming more resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse.  And now, drug resistant E. coli are being reported world-wide and there is also compelling data that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later confirming these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that can either linger for months or years or can show up months or years—as late as 10-to-20 years—after the original illness.

In the U.S. alone, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, sickening about 73,000 and killing 61 each year and, last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.


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