Romaine suspect in Ontario
E. coli outbreak
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By David Mitchell
(Nov. 14, 10:15 a.m.) Public health
officials in Ontario
are investigating whether an E. coli outbreak is linked to romaine lettuce.
According to public health agencies in Niagara, Halton,
Guelph and Waterloo, there were 27 confirmed illnesses
as of Nov. 13. More than 140 other cases remained under investigation.
typically has about 350 cases of E. coli in an entire year.
Andrew Morrison, spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,
said there also is one confirmed case in Quebec
and another in British Columbia.
A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that
agency is investigating the outbreak as well, but no cases had been confirmed
in the U.S.
as of Nov. 13. She declined to say which states CDC investigators were
however, still could be linked to the outbreak.
Multiple clusters of illnesses have been reported in Ontario. Rene Cardinal, national manager
of the fresh fruit and vegetables program of the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency, said that at one of the three restaurants that were temporarily
closed because of the outbreak, epidemiology points to romaine lettuce from California as a
“In one place lettuce seems to be the common food eaten by people that got
sick,” he said, “but that’s only one place. It’s one of the suspected items.”
Cardinal said Canada’s
growing season was wrapping up by the time the outbreak hit in late October.
Morrison said new onset dates have been reported as recently as Nov. 3, and
officials are treating the situation as an ongoing.
All three restaurants — Johnathan’s Family
Restaurant, Burlington; M.T. Bellies Tap, Welland; and the Little Red
Rooster, Niagara-on-the-Lake — have reopened, as has a high-school cafeteria
Cardinal said the outbreak is not related to an outbreak that led to 38
reported illnesses in Michigan, nine in Illinois and three in Ontario in September and October. Michigan officials linked that outbreak to
California-grown iceberg lettuce that was distributed by Detroit processor and distributor Aunt Mid’s.
Cardinal said the current outbreak is also unrelated to another recent E.
coli outbreak that led to 50 confirmed cases and more than 200 suspected
cases in Ontario.
That was linked to one North Bay restaurant, Harvey’s, which was
closed for a month before reopening Nov. 12.
Morrison said samples from that outbreak had a different genetic fingerprint
than the more recent outbreak. No source has been determined in the Harvey’s case.
“All tests came back negative,” Morrison said.