Canada: E. coli cases confirmed

Source of Article:

Linda Givetash  Nov 19, 2008

Suspected source of infections is contaminated romaine lettuce; official cause not yet named

The recent Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreak that has hit Southern Ontario has begun to make its mark on Waterloo region. It has been confirmed that two students at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener have contracted the bacteria, with a third case being investigated.

Health officials closed the school cafeteria, run by Aramark Canada, on November 7 in an attempt to determine the source of the outbreak. Romaine lettuce has been named as the prime suspect, but this has not been confirmed by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Kelly Ough, Director of Food Services at WLU and an Aramark employee, assured that the Fresh Food Co. is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of its customers. “We are doing our standard food-safety precautions ... avoiding cross-contamination keeping raw and cooked foods away from each other.”

The Fresh Food Co. has not disposed of any suspicious products as of yet. Ough explained that they are “waiting to hear what the CFIA comes up with as a link to E. coli.”

However, in light of the two ill students, St. Mary’s High School has thrown out all romaine lettuce as a precautionary measure prior to the cafeteria’s reopening on November 13.

The University of Guelph has also been hit by the outbreak. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has reported seven confirmed cases of E. coli in the area, all students of the university. The University has stopped selling lettuce on campus until the exact source is identified.

In total, there are 140 confirmed and probable cases of the E. coli infection in Southern Ontario. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has released a statement that “laboratory testing has determined that cases ... have the same DNA fingerprint,” implying that there is a common source for infection.

Karen Ostrander, Health Services manager at WLU, said that there are many products that the public should be cautious of and even avoid during an outbreak. The most common causes of E. coli infection are “the ingestion of ground beef products, such as hamburgers, that are rare or inadequately cooked ... [the] consumption of lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized juice, milk or cider and also person-to-person transmission.”

Until the source is determined, ensuring food is thoroughly washed and cooked is the best means of avoiding infection.





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