Romaine from California May be Tied to Canada E. coliNov 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Although it cannot confirm a source at this time, ThePacker.com, has issued an article stating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Public Health officials are looking into possible links to an E. coli outbreak in Ontario. The two groups are allegedly conducting farm investigations and according to ThePacker.com article, Romaine lettuce may be at the root of the contamination.
“We are following up on information from Canada about a potential link to romaine,” Ken August, a public information officer for the California Department of Public Health, told ThePacker.com. As of last week, 30 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 were a match to the DNA fingerprint involved in the outbreak. At that time, cases were only seen in Niagara, Halton, Guelph, and Waterloo,ThePacker.com said.
As of last week, another confirmed case turned up in Hamilton and there remain another 123 cases requiring testing, the website said. The report also noted that a variety of restaurants underwent testing—Jonathan’s Family Restaurant, Burlington; M.T. Bellies Tap, Welland; Little Red Rooster, Niagara-on-the-Lake; Pita Pit at the University of Guelph; and St. Mary’s High School cafeteria—and tested negative for E. coli. The case that just turned up in Hamilton was not associated with any of the restaurants or cafeterias “other area health agencies had previously identified,” said ThePacker.com.
Chris Mackie, associate medical officer of health for Hamilton Public Health Services, said the woman who reported the case in Hamilton reported eating bagged lettuce. “It seems like more of these people are reporting bagged lettuce, but we haven’t gotten any lab confirmed,” he told ThePacker.com. “In (the Hamilton woman’s) case, she doesn’t eat a lot of meat, she’s almost vegetarian, so it points to the lettuce,” Mackie added. However, Mackie also said that lettuce is just one of several food products being tested.
E. Coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli. Although most strains are harmless, this particular strain produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness and even death. Meat can become contaminated during slaughter, and organisms can be accidentally mixed into meat when it is ground; bacteria present on the cow's udders or on dairy equipment may get into raw milk; in a petting zoo, E. coli O157:H7 can contaminate the ground, railings, feed bins, and fur of the animals; and E. coli has been known to taint produce and nonmeat food products.